when you feel like you have 700 million things to do

I woke up this morning feeling groggy and anxious again. The never-ending list has seemed to haunt my dreams as of late. The fundraising letters, thank you cards, fundraising plans, dishes, laundry, care packages, blog entries and the list could go on were whirring around my heart this morning and into the afternoon.

But all I wanted was for it all to be quiet.

The days of feeling like I have all the time in the world to get things done and I’m actually checking things off the list seem to be a distant memory.

Just yesterday my husband was updating a friend of his on our adoption and he mentioned how we are in a season of waiting and don’t really have much to do right now. I laughed to myself and shook my head as I looked at my long to-do list, with most of it regarding our adoption. It was then a little voice quietly spoke to my heart, “Sarah, you’re becoming bitter and discontent again.”

I was and to be honest, I’m still fighting off bitterness and discontentment. The toddler in me wants to throw a tantrum because I just want one thing in our adoption to be over! I would love to use the double “F” word (fully-funded) or to say that we have passed court. I fight the fear that my emotions and anxieties will take the better of me through this process and I don’t want to be defined by being an anxious busybody.

I long to be quiet. Not just the noise level, but I long for a quiet that washes over this tired soul and lifts it up to a peace that passes understanding.

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph. 3:17) 

This morning as I was washing the dishes and putting away the laundry, I stepped outside and gazed at the summer sky. I took a deep breath, and prayed that God would quiet my heart. And for a moment, He did. I pray for more of those moments.

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Yes, there will always lists to complete and I will have to work hard at times to help bring home our girls, but in order for me to stay sane and to enjoy this season that God has placed me in I need to take captive my thoughts and cling to the truth that Jesus brings quiet to my life even when there are 700 million things on my to-do list.

How do you quiet your heart and mind when life seems out of control?

From the Cornfields of Iowa to the Desert of Arizona

Today the ladies involved with the Influence Network are sharing a bit about where we grew up, and where we currently live! Since the Network is “home” to women from all across the globe, this is a fun way to make the world a little smaller. So here’s a bit about where I’m from…

corn fields of iowa

The beautiful cornfields of Iowa…just seeing this makes my heart sigh a little

I grew up in the eastern rural cornfields (and hog land) of Iowa. I was actually born in Dyersville, Iowa. If there are any fans of baseball movies, that is where “Field of Dreams” was filmed. To this day you can still go to the baseball field and play a pick up game of baseball. My parents were teachers in a small town near Dyersville that didn’t have a hospital…teeny tiny town. I think Cascade was a booming 1200 at that time! I loved growing up in Cascade. We lived in a neighborhood FILLED with children my age & my sisters’ age, so summer nights were spent playing kick the can, going to the river, riding bikes, and any other outdoor game you can think of. It was the quintessential childhood in many ways.

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

When I was 12, my parents decided that we needed to make a change. So they packed up their four kids (12, 9, 5, & 2) and moved us to Southern Iowa…a totally different world to us. A land that actually had Iowa State Cyclone Fans!!! Booo….Hiss… But it was there that I learned that Cyclone fans are not evil, like many of my Iowa Hawkeye friends had believed! This little farming community was actually not too different from Cascade, except that it was about three times the size (so that would still make it teeny tiny to most people :)) The people were kind and took us under their wings as we adjusted to life in a new community. It was there that I met many of my best friends and where I finally came out of my super shy shell.

christmas in albia

Albia goes all out for Christmas decorations each year!

One of my very best friends Katy...she was in my wedding...and we did EVERYTHING together

One of my very best friends Katy…she was in my wedding…and we did EVERYTHING together

After graduating from high school, I ventured back to North Eastern Iowa. I attended the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls. CF is still one of my favorite places in the world. I lived there for a total of 8 years. I thought after college I would be headed out into the world, but God had different plans and kept me there a little longer than I would have planned. I lived and worked in Cedar Falls until I met my husband, 4 years after graduation. 8 months after meeting my husband, I was whisked away to a land unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

UNI's campus on the edge of town...it's changed a lot since then but it's still one of the prettiest campuses I've been to

UNI’s campus on the edge of town…it’s changed a lot since then but it’s still one of the prettiest campuses I’ve been to

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The Hot, Dry Desert of Arizona.

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Tucson has been my home now for two and a half years. Those first 8-10 months living here were brutal. I thought it was so ugly because there was no grass, no water, and hardly ever any clouds or weather changes. The weather changes in Tucson are kinda warm, warm, hot and hotter…with a monsoon season thrown in there to give you a little reprieve. I felt like I had moved to a different country! I loved being able to see fields of green and watch the corn grow.

I love the fall football season in the Midwest and I was just confused by it here…it was still pushing 100 near the end of football season! What?! I was also not use to the size of the city! The biggest city I had ever lived in prior to Tucson was 30,000 and Tucson is approximately ONE MILLION! I was accustomed to going to the grocery store and running into countless people I knew or heading to Panera for some alone time and end up staying hours later because an old friend walked in. Nothing was familiar. I knew NO ONE in the entire state of Arizona.. Needless to say, I struggled to transition.

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

But then God started to do a work in my heart and opened my eyes to the stunning sunsets and sunrises. I began to see the beauty of the desert and now I can freely say that I love living in Tucson…even when the high today will be 110. We love hiking the trails and seeing the mountains every day. I’m not sure if I would be able to say that I love Tucson as much as I do if we hadn’t found our church community. The people that we have met have become an extension of our family and I am truly grateful. Tucson has taught me much more about myself and the world around me.

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it's typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it’s typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

A small town girl moved to a town of one million…and she was forever changed.

 

And I’m actually getting on a plane to fly back to Iowa in two hours! Better go pack!

This One’s Going to be Random…

I really should be washing the piles of dishes accumulating in my sink, but instead I chose to sit down, type out a few words, and drink some iced coffee from a mason jar.

iced coffee

I’m on day 3  of 6 of baby-sitting for a friend and I. AM. TIRED. My little friends are wonderful and great kids, but whoosh am I not used to that pace of life yet! Caring for a 2.5 & 14 month old is busy! Today as I was reading to one of the kiddos, I realized that the ages of G & M are almost identical to the ages of my friends’ kids (if their documentation is correct). Life will change dramatically when they come home and I can’t wait for it!

In two and a half weeks, the husband and I are hitting the road for two weeks to drive up to Northern California to visit wineries, friends, and enjoy time away. Any tips for long car rides? We like reading books to one another. On our last big road trip, we read almost three of the Harry Potter books. We may try to finish the series on the road, but we are open to other ideas.

Last week, I signed up for a blogging class for the month of July with Blogelina. Included in the class is a year of free web-hosting, so this site may be changing a lot in the near future. I’m really excited to see what God will do with this little blog. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for a new name. If you have any ideas, I’d love to throw them in the pot! My husband has been trying to have me sit down to do a day of brainstorming for the blog…maybe that will finally happen this week!

This past Saturday I had a small Thirty-One party to raise some funds for our adoption. Thank you to all who came and purchased some products! It was fun sharing with people our heart for adoption and even in the midst of the trials how God is changing our hearts and revealing to us more of His heart for orphans and families. Orphan care and sustainable living in third world countries has definitely been ruminating in our hearts lately. We’re looking forward to how God will continue to grow that passion and vision in our lives. This week I am finally picking up Orphan Justice: how to care for orphans beyond adoption by Johnny Carr. It should be a good read and I’m ready to learn more about how to love and care for the 98% of orphans who are never adopted or have families to call their own.

We still have A LOT of funds to raise for our adoption, but I’m pretty worn out from fundraising and I’m pretty sure my social media friends are tired of me saying stuff about it online. After the Thirty-One fundraiser, we’re taking a break from fundraising until we get back from vacation. If you’re interested in helping out during that time, there is a link on the upper right-hand corner (says donate now) that you can click and it will send you to our tax-deductible donation account. Other than that, we’d just appreciate your prayers for our girls, the process, and our funding.

This summer I’m re-reading a book called Bread & Wine with some friends and once a month we are going to get together for dinner and make some of the dishes in the book. I’m looking forward to cultivating community with women over the table and in homes. There is something special about sharing a meal and sharing your heart with women who have walked different journeys.

It’s really hot in Tucson now…like REALLY hot. I’m glad that I’ll be getting a break from it for 3 days while I’m on a quick trip to watch my brother play baseball in Iowa.

it's hot

One last random thought…this weekend I bought a new mop. And it’s awesome. That’s all.

Have a great week friends!

The One Where My Husband Hijacks My Blog to Say Happy Birthday (A Day Early)

THE HIJACKER

Hi, this is Jason, and I’m Sarah’s husband.

Insert maniacal take over laugh here. Mwahaha.

Insert maniacal take over laugh here. Mwahaha.

THE WHY

Tomorrow is Sarah’s birthday, and in honor of that, I have hijacked her blog to let all of you know what I love about her.

You may ask, why are you doing it the day before? Well, Sarah has been doing this blog thing for a bit now, and she has seen that not many people read blogs on Saturdays. And since I pay attention to what she tells me about blogging, I decided to post this today, so more of you would see it. Because I want as many people as possible to see this and know how much I love Sarah.

28 things I love about Sarah

(28 for no particular reason… 😉 )

1. She laughs at my horrendously lame jokes. If you know me, I have an ODD sense of humor, and somehow Sarah either actually finds it funny, or just indulges me.

2. She takes really, really good care of our house. Former roommates of mine will admit to moving out because of how messy I was, so the fact that the house is clean is a testament to Sarah. I mean, she makes our laundry soap.

3. Her smile. I mean seriously, have you ever seen it? How can you not love it?

She still smiles like this today. I think that means she still likes me :-)

She still smiles like this today. I think that means she still likes me 🙂

4. Her heart for people. Sarah inspires me to care more about people. Not just the people directly in my life, but people everywhere, all around the world. Her heart bursts and breaks for the injustice of the world.

5. She is smoking hot.

6. She takes care of me when I’m sick. I’m a HUGE baby when I get sick. All I want to do is lay around and do nothing. So I do. And Sarah lets me, and then on top of it, she makes me food and takes care of me.

7. She encourages my dreams. I tend to dream big. REALLY big. A lot of people would be scared off by that. Sarah instead asks questions and asks what we can do to move toward those dreams.

8. This blog. I love that she has found her creative outlet, and I love reading about what she has to say. This one about my grandpa even made me cry.

9. In addition to reading the blog, I love that she trusts me enough to be the IT manager/Editor. I have no real experience with either thing, and yet she defers to me on almost all questions related to either topic.

10. She is likely faster and stronger than you. Sarah loves working out (and sometimes puts me to shame in the gym, which I’m learning to be ok with). But I just love that she’s willing to push herself, which leads to the next one…

Look at those guns! Good thing AZ is an open carry state.

Look at those guns! Good thing AZ is an open carry state.

11. She kicks my butt when I’m lazy. Sarah is a great motivator. I am not always the first one out of bed (ok, almost never), to go to the gym. So she gently encourages me to get up, and go. Or she just pushes me out with her foot. Both seem to work well.

12. She lets me keep my beard. I love having a beard, it’s almost like I can’t exist without it. Once, when we were dating, I shaved it off at her request, and she said, “You look really handsome without, but you can grow it back.” SCORE!

13. Adventure. She’s one brave lady. She took a chance on agreeing to marry me when I had no job, and then agreed to move 2000 miles away from everything she’d ever known when the only job I could get was in Tucson, AZ. Then she let me buy a fixer-upper house that needed a lot of love. And now we are adopting internationally. We’ve been married 2.5 years, and we’ve had an awful lot of excitement.

14. Her resolve. We’ve had some tough times in the first few years, but she keeps on going.

15. Sarah is my taste tester. I like to experiment with food (I do a lot of the cooking around here), and she is always generous with her reviews. Even if I’ve really thrown a dud on the plate, she thanks me for it.

16. She encourages me to pursue my passions. I’ve long been into photography, but only recently, I’ve been getting back into it. We are going on a trip this summer, and Sarah has already given me permission to stop at random when I see things I want to photograph.

17. Watching her with our friend’s kids. She is at home with kids, they still make me a bit nervous at times…but I know that when we have ours home, she will be the greatest mom they could ever have had!

18. There is nobody I would rather drive in the car with. Some of our best conversations have been while driving somewhere.

19. She gave up bagels for me. You may have seen all her Whole30 posts recently, but she came to the Paleo side kicking and screaming when we first got married. But she did it for me (at first).

20. She doesn’t yell at me when I come shoeless because I gave them away again.

21. Sarah is patient with me as I learn how to love her. I stumble on this a lot, and sometimes our dates are less than stellar, but she always thanks me for trying.

22. Still smokin’ hot. I doubt that’s ever changing.

You got nothin' on this girl. She's got style for miles!

You got nothin’ on this girl. She’s got style for miles!

23. CAMPING! I love it, and I’m glad she does too so I don’t have to convince her and drag her along.

24. She lets me fail. I’m stubborn, and sometimes I like to do things my own way, which doesn’t always work out. But Sarah lets me take things at my pace (like remodeling the bathroom).

25. I wouldn’t love coffee like I do if it wasn’t for Sarah. She made me start, and now I can’t stop. (I was the first to start drinking it black though).

26. She tries to figure out my surprises for her. Sarah loves surprises, but I think she loves figuring them out early even more. But I bet she had no idea I was hijacking her blog!

27. She loves me with everything she has. Don’t believe me? Read these posts: Proof of Love 1Proof of Love 2Proof of Love 3Proof of Love 4.

Yup, we're in love.

Yup, we’re in love.

28. She loves Jesus even more than she loves me. And she really desires for other people to love him as well. I have seen so much growth in my personal life with Jesus, and I know a lot of that is because she prays for me, constantly.

So there you have it. Sarah Wood is the best wife ever, and you should all wish her a happy birthday (tomorrow).

Happy birthday (a day early) Sarah!

Our 30 Day Challenge is Over!!! or is it…

may flowers

Happy May Day!! I love May! It’s my birthday month, my sister’s birthday month, many of my friends birthday month, so there is always a lot of celebrating in May. This year it’s also the month my baby brother graduates from high school. I mentioned that in my blog yesterday and I still can’t believe it!

Another great thing about today being May 1st is that it’s the end of our Whole30 challenge {insert cheers and hurrahs}!

whole30 success

This month was HARD, but so good. I pretty much fell off the bandwagon this weekend and as Jason keeps telling me…it’s okay, I was still successful. The struggles I had with food this month exposed some lies that I’ve believed about myself for a very long time. I’m still processing through it all and I’m thankful that God used this month for more than just getting me physically healthy.

BUT

I did get physically healthy!! I’ve mentioned countless times before that this diet has balanced my energy levels and helped me sleep soundly and I’m SO grateful for that. I’ve never felt better since I’ve been consistent with eating Whole30!

whole30 yes and no

Here are my full results from this month:

  • 4.5 lbs. Lost (wasn’t expecting that)
  • I lost 3.5 inches around my waist (yay! I’m a full size smaller!)
  • I lost 7.5 inches total!
  • My skin has been clearer, brighter, and more moisturized than ever before.
  • My energy levels are balanced. (I know I keep mentioning that, but it’s just amazing to me!)
  • I’m more “regular”.
  • My menstrual cycle seems like it’s regulating as well. (Maybe some actual healing will take place in that area!)
  • It’s pretty certain that I have a FODMAPS allergy and we are still learning which veggies to avoid.
  • My husband looks awesome! 🙂

Jason was a ROCKSTAR this month! He lost 12 lbs and 7 inches!! And he only worked out 5 days this month because of an injury. We’ve learned that for him, if he wants to continue to lose weight, it will happen most successfully in the kitchen. We are getting back to the gym this month, so I am positive that we are going to have to throw out all of his clothes by June and purchase him an entire new wardrobe! Too bad his birthday was in February! 🙂

We’ve talked pretty seriously about making this diet more of our lifestyle and less of a month long challenge. I think we will have a cheat day built in each week because all food can and should be enjoyed. Jason and I desire to live our lives filled with energy and yummy food, so we are going to work on finding our personal balance.

Thanks for following us on this month long journey! I hope that you are encouraged by our attempt to eat healthy in the month of April!

Happy May Day from the Wood’s!

Picture taken in New Zealand...

Picture taken in New Zealand…

April Showers Bring May Flowers

April is becoming a favorite month of mine in the desert.  We don’t have the thunderstorms that my Iowa friends are “blessed” with right now and I do miss that, but I love this desert weather. The nights and mornings are still cool and the days are warm enough for a tank top and jeans. Today might be a little too hot though! 100 degrees is not spring weather for this Iowa girl!

As I thumbed through my calendar this morning reviewing our activities this month, I was amazed by all of our activities! It was an emotionally challenging month, but filled with many evidences of God’s grace in my life.

1)   At the beginning of April, our adoption process took a turn we weren’t anticipating. Through the pain and confusion came a deeper trust in God and a growing faith that God does works all things for the good of His children, even when it doesn’t make sense to my human brain.

2)   On April 6th, we had the World’s Biggest Rummage Sale! Hundreds of people came out and supported us. We were thrilled to bring in over $3,000 in that one day! God confirmed to us that He would provide for us during this faith journey!

Still amazed at God's provision!

Still amazed at God’s provision!

3)   Whole30! Jason and I are completing our Whole30 challenge today! It was one of the hardest things I have done and it shed a lot of light into the way that I view food. I will delve into that tomorrow!

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4)   We had dinner dates with lots of new and old friends this month! Meals and coffee shared with friends are my favorite. I’m about to start a book that speaks to the importance of creating memories with others over shared meals. Can’t wait to start! A favorite dinner this month was with a family who adopted two children from the same country as us! Jason and I loved listening to their stories and are very excited about the friendship that is budding!

5)   I posted blogs more frequently this month than any previous month! My goal is to blog 3-5 times a week. I have loved learning more about blogging and writing this month. Soon I plan on changing a few things up on this site, which is very exciting! Be on the look out!

6)   Baby-sitting was a part-time “job” for me this month! I love having the flexibility in my schedule to serve the moms of our church in this way. This past weekend, Jason and I watched adorable toddlers for 24 hours straight. That was a lesson in parenting and patience! I now have a greater respect for all of you moms out there who function on a daily basis with interrupted sleep! I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous about this upcoming change in my life.

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That was only a sneak peek into our month! I’m looking forward to May because I think that there will be even more memories created over dinners and trips that Jason and I are taking! My birthday kicks off the month right 🙂 and I think  Jason is already making it one of my favorite with a sweet card he gave me yesterday.

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And then I am traveling back to Iowa for a week to help my mom prepare the house for my brother’s high school graduation. AND my baby brother graduates from high school??? What?!?

Isn't he handsome?

Isn’t he handsome?

What were your highlights from April? What are you looking forward to in May?

Monday Afternoon Coffee Date

Mondays often feel a little off for me. Jason heads back to work and I attempt to get back into the routine of keeping up with the house and paperwork. Today I’m moving even slower than usual because of a stomach bug I’m fighting. So instead of writing the blog I planned, I thought I’d sit down with you over a cup of tea and share a little of what’s on my heart today.

This weekend Jason and I went out on a Saturday morning date to a fun, hipster coffee shop in downtown Tucson. It was just what we needed. We both sat back in comfy chairs and did what we both enjoy doing. Jason read and I wrote. Writing has become therapeutic during this stressful season. I’ve kept a journal to capture my thoughts and prayers since I was 12, but the past few months have been different. I’ve found that writing is helping me stay grounded to the present when my mind wants to fret over the future of our family. I wake up thinking about topics to write on and through that I’ve discovered new things about myself through the art of writing.

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Years ago, I labeled myself non-creative and boring. In high school, I never enjoyed art class and would choose a day of watching or playing football (or any sport) over going to a musical or a concert. So I thought that meant that I wasn’t “art-sty”. I didn’t think an athletic, sports fanatic like me could also be creative. So, I focused on what I knew I could do and stopped doing what I thought was didn’t fit in that category (drawing, writing, music, etc).

Back when I was a tiny elementary student, though, I used to tell people that when I grew up I wanted to be a writer. I would spend my free time reading books and writing my own stories. My mom even bought me a computer program that allowed me to make picture books (I wonder what happened to those stories, Mom). But then around 5th grade a friend told me that writers don’t make any money, so I changed my dream to becoming a nurse, then a teacher…something that was more practical. Looking back now, I should have kept that dream alive…

As I spent my time writing on Saturday morning, I realized that I needed more of this in my life. Not so that people can say that I can write well (which I don’t) or for more subscribers, I want to write so that I can see. Writing helps me see the beauty of what’s around me, even when it first appears mundane. I’m realizing more and more that there truly is beauty in everything. There’s beauty even in this quiet little house with sleeping dogs and a pile of laundry waiting to be folded. There’s grace in this moment.

sunset beauty

I still don’t enjoy going to art galleries or concerts (much to my husband’s misfortune). And that’s okay, I’ve finally found my creative outlet that brings me life. And who knows, maybe the more I embrace my creative self, the more I’ll enjoy those art galleries, honey 🙂

I downloaded a free book a few weeks ago called “On Becoming a Writer: What Every Blogger Needs to Know“. At the end of each chapter, she has you go through a writing exercise. I’m excited to start that this week and who know’s maybe some of that writing will end up here and maybe it will just stay in my journal. We will see.

Creativity is a God-given trait that we all carry with us. As you drink your proverbial afternoon coffee, think about how you can embrace creativity this week. Do you enjoy photography? Take a 30 minute break with your camera and see what images you can capture. Do you enjoy drawing? Keep a pad of paper by your side as you finish your bills. If you’re not sure what sparks your creativity, hop on Pinterest for a few minutes (good luck!) and see what catches your eye. I’m looking forward to embracing the beauty and grace that God has blessed me with and putting that to paper more often.