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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stepping Out in Faith

2016 has been a whirlwind year for our family. I know the world has viewed it as a rough year due to the election and so many celebrity deaths but we've viewed it as a rough year for much, much more personal reasons.

So much of the "rough stuff" we've faced has lined up so strangely perfectly with our plans to adopt.

1. We made the official decision to adopt in late April. Zach had to have back surgery a week later.
2. We made our adoption plans social media official in late June. That same day my "face gate" situation happened.
3. We got home study approved in mid-September. A week later Zach had his first episode that we now know was a precursor to MS. 

Never in my LIFE have I felt called to do something the way I have felt called to adopt. It wasn't in our plans (and we all know how much Zach and I live by our plans!). It wasn't on our radar. It wasn't something we were considering or planning or even thinking about. Yet God led us to it in such clear, obvious ways. Ways I've never personally experienced before. Everything He kept revealing to us lead to ONE path and that is adoption. 

Almost instantly when we made that decision, the decision to follow God, to let Him lead us, Satan got on the attack and he's continued to attack us since. He didn't only attack in those three things I mentioned above (although those were among the biggies in our rough year). He hit us financially, he hit us with pets dying, he hit us with fear and doubt about our adoption, he hit us with plumbing issues, house issues, family issues, heck in MRSA issues. One thing after another. Satan just kept pounding us.

It was hard.

And when September hit and Zach's long-term medical issues were discovered, I hit my rock bottom. I couldn't even fathom continuing with adoption. I couldn't fathom adding a baby (who may have needs of his own) into our family. I have three kids, a home to care for, and now a husband who may also need more of my care. Zach is the breadwinner and with his medical situation comes days missing work which means less income. It also means more expenses with drs visits and potential medications.

The human side to me let's Satan win. It lets that fear just consume me. If Zach needs more sleep at night, how will I possibly handle night duty every feeding on my own? How will I function taking care of FOUR kids on so much less sleep? How will we possibly afford to adopt? We can't take out a loan now! Zach needs to minimize his stress, not add to it. Won't a new baby only add to stress? Add to financial strains? What if the baby has medical needs? Special needs? How in the world can we manage that on top of Zach's medical stuff? I can't handle this. I'm a person who has to carefully manage my plate. If it gets overfilled I have a lot of anxiety and just can't function. Why sign up for something that is guaranteed to cause that plate to be overfilled?

But y'all. I'm a daughter of a King. And I know Satan doesn't win. He doesn't win against the Lord and he won't win against me or my household. He won't. And for all those human elements that terrify me there is one big spiritual one that overrides it all:

Step out in FAITH.

It was my personal motto for this adoption. Even before any of the scary medical stuff happened. Just deciding to adopt on it's own was a HUGE decision that has been a MASSIVE leap of faith. And now? Now we're deciding all over again to continue to step out in that faith. In an even BIGGER way than we'd thought we were before.

God has led us to adopt. If we turn back now, what is that telling Him? I know more than anything that it would be a slap in His face. It'd be saying to him that we don't care what HE wants. It would be allowing Satan to control our steps rather than following the ultimate path maker on the path HE has decided is best for us.

Even in all this "rough stuff" God has continued to be there for us through it. We see ways in which He prepared us for the trials we'd face. We see ways in which He has reminded us that sticking by Him and following His will pays off 10 fold. He's here. He doesn't abandon us when Satan is on attack. Blessings still flow. Goodness never falls away. His light never dims.

I know many, many people didn't agree with our initial decision to adopt. People don't understand it. And I don't expect them to! Not everyone is called to do the same things in life. The Lord has plans for us all and they are all different. We all have our own ways in which we can step out in faith. This is ours. Now that we've found out about Zach's medical situation, people are even more negative about our plans to continue the adoption.

People have said that maybe all this bad stuff happening is God's way of telling us NOT to adopt. Y'all. God doesn't work that way. He doesn't operate by fear. When in doubt whether or not something is coming from God or Satan (and yes, sometimes it's tricky to tell!) just step back and look for the fear. If there is fear in it, then it's not from the Lord. And all this bad stuff? It's just caused FEAR in our hearts and we KNOW that's not God telling us not to adopt. It's Satan trying to stop us.

God clearly has HUGE favor in adoption and in our plans to go down this path. He clearly has HUGE blessings in store for this child or else why would Satan be trying so hard to prevent it from happening?

People may think we are crazy. But a whole heck of a lot of people thought Noah was crazy too.

I've had several people tell me that the year our family has experienced reads like a story straight out of the Bible. And I agree! I want our story to be one of faith. One that points to the Lord and one that can inspire others to follow Him as well.

I recognize that many, many of the characters in the Bible never lived to see the purpose of their paths. Maybe we won't see God's plan in all of this during our lifetime. Maybe the child we adopt will have a child and that child will have a child and THAT child's life is where the plan is revealed. I'm totally 100% fine with rejoicing in Heaven and not knowing until then what this grand purpose is.

Even when I'm scared. Even when the future is so up in the air. Even when it feels like my plate is too full to carry. I trust in Him. Zach and I are 100% on the same page (he actually never wavered on the decision to adopt) and we will continue to step out in faith for our Lord.

We are thankful to put 2016 to rest and are SO eager to see the ways in which God continues to reveal Himself in our lives in 2017. We feel pretty positive that many blessings are just around the corner waiting for us :)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bippity Boppity Boutique (Disney Springs)

This trip to Disney was our longest family vacation EVER (8 nights!) and our biggest Disney trip EVER (the most meals, most park days, and even a party!). It took months of planning (I'm talking like 12 months haha) and I loved every single minute of it. The rush when you nail that meal reservation, the excitement when you get those fast pass times you wanted, and the joy when packing up all the well planned outfits. There just isn't anything like planning a trip to Disney. I LOVE IT. Down to the littlest detail (like perfecting those daily itineraries) it just brings me SUCH joy and was at such a much needed time in our lives. 

Disney posts tend to be picture heavy so I'm going to be dividing the posts up as much as I can. I took over 2,000 photos myself and that doesn't include any of the Disney Memory Maker photos (which we took TONS since it was our first trip having Memory Maker!). I also posted a TON of videos via Instagram Stories (have you been following along? I'm pretty much obsessed with making them!) and am linking them throughout the posts as well. If you click the wording that is a different color than the rest of the text it'll take you to my You Tube Channel and is a direct link to the video related to whatever we're doing :) 

Our first morning at Disney was our ONLY down time for the entire trip! Mrs. Charlotte left that morning to come down so it was just some chill time. Every day on Disney trips I give each kid a little goody in their Disney bags when they wake up. I planned for the busiest thing that morning...which were these little luggage tag kits! They were super cute and all three kids enjoyed them (they were among the many things I purchased when using Hollar for the first time!)

Britt colors SO HARD it's so funny b/c her marker tips immediately went flat!

The house we rented was literally down the street from a great playground! We did our crafting then headed down to play for an hour or so. We were the only ones there for most of the time...and when two other kids showed up I think Britt's eagerness to make friends scared them off ;)

Prior to our trip Britt and I made "Hidden Mickey" cookies. It was my first time trying to do cookie cutter shapes on pre-made dough and I was pleasantly surprised with how awesome they turned out...and how yummy!

The girls napped and we let Kye skip because the rental house had Mario Kart and he was SO PUMPED to get to play it! Britt woke up a bit early and was able to play as well! 

Once our kids turn 5 they can opt to skip an elaborate birthday party and instead go to Disney. I know it sounds like it'd cost way more than a party but we always go to Disney twice a year anyway so working in their birthdays as our yearly trips actually works out quite well (Kye's 7th birthday trip was actually totally FREE thanks to Ebates money I had!). Even though it's their birthday, we still make sure that EVERYONE is focused on throughout our trips. So I like to try to make plans that are special JUST for the birthday child to enjoy. 

As one of Britt's birthday presents this year (as in the cost came from her gift budget) we booked her a makeover at Bippity Boppity Boutique. I'd always heard how packages cost over $300 so I was SHOCKED when I looked into it and discovered that the basic package is $59. Still expensive? Yes. But Zach and I both agreed it was WELL worth it! She had NO CLUE it even existed and was BEYOND thrilled!

Most people want to book BBB at Magic Kingdom. There your daughter gets made into a princess inside Cinderella's Castle. It's extremely tough to get a reservation there. I actually WANTED a reservation at the Disney Springs location. I didn't want to feel rushed through her appointment or like we were wasting park time. And I liked that if the other two kids did get board that they could go to other nearby stores to look around without Britt missing out on something they were doing (like a ride if we were at MK). I also didn't want Tess's first MK experience to be sitting around watching Britt get a makeover haha

G-Mama arrived in plenty of time to ride with us. Getting to the BBB location took a tad longer than we'd expected it to take. The new parking garages are great but also tricky (and the black Friday crowds didn't help either!). 

We all got to go into the wardrobe room with her and saw the mirror come to life! The Fairy Godmother was AWESOME and totally unexpected for us!  

Even Kye was into it!

I found Britt a new Elsa Dress for the special occasion. I asked her leading up to the trip if she could dress like one princess who would she choose? And, of course, Elsa was the winner!

Britt has also been sporting a shorter hair style since summer but I have avoided a hair cut as I wanted to make sure her hair was long enough for the princess look!

She still really didn't understand what was happening but was so, so excited :)

One thing I was NOT told about when making our appointment was that only TWO adults are allowed back with the child having the makeover. Y'all I felt SO BAD that Mrs. Charlotte couldn't come back with us. She's super, super great about stuff like that (of course she was quick to say "Oh it's better for me NOT to watch so I can be surprised at the transformation!") but I still felt so bad b/c she'd driven down that morning to make sure she was there in time to see it!

You also pay in the waiting area prior to be taken back. We paid for EVERYTHING on this trip using Disney Gift Cards. I purchase them from Target (which gives me 5% off using my Target Red Card) and purchase them through Target's website via Ebates so I get 2% cash back as well. I also didn't know that the "Fairy Godmothers in Training" DO take tips but that you have to tip with cash. We didn't have any cash on us and also didn't see anyone else tip so I'm not sure if it's common practice to do so or not? 

We checked out all the adorable decor while we waited and figured out which princess matched which flag!

Before each of our kids' first visits to Disney they've gotten sick. Kye had strep and was still finishing up antibiotics on his first trip. Britt got strep a couple weeks prior to her first trip. Tess didn't get sick leading up to the trip which made me NERVOUS. Sure enough, we realized she had a temp while sitting at BBB. She was acting really different than normal and it was hard not to be worried about her during that time. Zach cuddled on her so I could focus on Britt. 

Kye was also SUPER patient while watching Britt and really enjoyed it as well. We saw some boys there having the prince package makeover. None of us were too impressed with that (LOTS of glitter...) although I had heard they'd do pixie dust for siblings but we weren't offered it and didn't ask. 

This girl was in HEAVEN. Zach and I both agreed it was WELL worth the cost to see!!!

Disney just recently moved the location of BBB at Disney Springs and recreated the whole area. I've never been to BBB at MK but I believe it's similar in set up and design? It's basically one big circle with several stations and a seating area in the middle for the guests to watch and wait. Photo pass people come around snapping lots of pics (my pics in this post are a combo of my own and theirs). The vibe was SUPER friendly, relaxed and fun. I couldn't have asked for a better situation or experience! We were EXTREMELY impressed down to the very littlest detail. Every child we saw was smiling and was made to feel special. 

Britt got to choose her hairstyle (thank goodness she went with the traditional princess, Z and I aren't fans of the fake hair stuff some of the styles used). She also got to choose her nail color, eye color and sticker for her face. 

Pixie Dust!

Of course she chose blue and pink. My 80s child ;)

When that crown got put on, she got serious ;)

I LOVED how they spun her around for a big reveal!!! It was precious!

I also loved how they gave her a birthday sash! We didn't ask for it but her Fairy Godmother in Training picked it on her own!

I love not only the genuine JOY my child has, but that the staff show JUST as much JOY as well! THAT is what makes Disney what it is!

She was given to keep: the crown, Mickey pin, sash, extra nail polish, comb they used (I had read to bring your own brush but it was never asked for?), extra stickers for her face, and all the extra makeup. It was all given to her in an adorable pull string book bag as well! 

Overall we loved the entire experience and felt it was well worth the $60 price tag (I wouldn't personally do a higher priced package...the dresses the other girls had that were purchased with a package weren't any cuter than Britt's. In fact her cheap cheap dress was prettier than the actual Elsa one they had there). I can totally see us doing this again in the future and having Tess do it as well someday! It'd be so cute to have them do it together! 

Here she is...Princess (Queen ;) ) Elsa!

This is her "freezing the castle" pose

I'm so glad we took a few minutes and just focused on her and her reveal and got individual shots with our princess!

We had dinner plans but had some time in-between. We had plans to come back to Disney Springs the next day so we decided to just get to our reservation early rather than start any shopping. Plus Britt insisted on wearing her Elsa princess we knew there wouldn't be a lot of comfort for long ha! 

One of my #lifelongdreams has been to be a WDW Annual Passholder. I did the math on it and since we were going for a longer trip for Tess's first visit, going back for Kye's birthday, going with Zach's family at some point, and hopefully maybe going for my bday it worked out financially where getting the AP would be worth it. I only got one for ME (and I'm hoping to do a SOLO TRIP! Has anyone ever done one?) as everyone in our family could benefit from the perks of just me having one. My big dream is to one day have a rental house at Disney and ALL of us have APs. But for now I'm just crunk for MYSELF haha! I got very, very lucky as well. When I did the math I figured it all based on the 10% discounts they had on some dining as well as on merchandise. They recently changed and now it's 10% on a LOT more restaurants and 20% on merchandise PLUS I was given a BONUS month of usage. So 13 months rather than 12! I'm hoping that means another bonus trip for us at some point to take advantage of it! I haven't re-ran the math with all the additional discounts but those PLUS free parking PLUS free Memory Maker (which means ALL the photos Disney took of us we got to HAVE for FREE!) really made it so worthwhile to have. (the saying used to be that an AP pays for itself if you visit the parks 10 days in a year, but now it's def much less and probably more like 6-7 days) And it's only been one trip so far with it! Plus I also purchased with giftcards so I saved the 5% and got that cash back :) 

I legit almost cried when we made it official!

Part of the BBB experience included a pic in front of Cinderella's Carriage! I LOVE THIS!

Since we had the free Memory Maker we also took a minute to stop by a photo studio they have set up (if you're familiar with Disney Springs it's inside where guest services used to be). It was straight up early 90s with the blue backdrop. It reminded me of Olan Mills. Right? But it was also pretty awesome :) And who can pass up free pics? 

We got her to change shoes so she could dance the night away as we headed off to a dinner fit for a princess!

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