Quiet

 It’s been a while since I actually sat down and wrote down some thoughts.  I guess I’ve really been taking my #lessHUSTLE post back in September to heart and really trying to slow down.  Plus, I was busy getting ready for a women’s retreat in October, so that took up a lot of brain cells, and time.
I’ve been wanting to write again, I enjoy it, it’s healing to my soul.  Like a balm on sunburned skin, writing soothes me.  Before I’ve just journaled, and that will probably always be my go-to form of writing.  But there is a different type of comfort I’m discovering in writing for others to see too.  Even if it’s just a little audience, it’s nice to have a place to share.  I’ve been wanting to write again, I just haven’t known what to write about.
And that’s when I realized, there was a reason for the silence.  Looking back at my journal, most of the verses God was giving me were about being quiet.  This was one of my favorites, and one that came up several times within the last few months…
Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
Psalm 62:5-6
God has been having me rest.  And it’s been beautiful.  And He wants the same with you.
There is such comfort in those verses.  Such rest, such quiet…such strength.  It reminded me of #lessHUSTLE, and of all the noise we are faced with day to day.  The almost constant face-to-screen time we have all become accustom to.  Over these last few months, in the quietness of my blog, I have been trying to get less screen time with my phone, computer, iPad, and TV.  It’s challenging sometimes.  But it’s been restful.
And as we move into the hectic holiday season, I’m already trying to find ways to take the “hustle and bustle” out of Christmas.  That is not what I want it to be for me and my family.
Yesterday, I came across a post by Ann Voskamp about Christmas, which led me to this page with some great resources (some even free) about how to slow down and make Christmas a little more meaningful for your family.  It was right up my alley!  So I just had to share.
I’m looking forward to using some of the resources there, and begin to work in new traditions into our family this year.
What are you doing to slow down this season, to slow down and wait quietly on Him – on His rest, His peace, His comfort, His strength?

‘Tis the Season

It’s almost that time of year when mailboxes will be filled with holiday photos from friends and family far and while.  Some have spent months planning matching wardrobes changes, scouting locations options, researching photographers, and deciding on a card layout.  Others, like me, forget all about getting photos taken until we get the first card in the mail right around Thanksgiving.

This year, thanks to Jessica Helton, you have just enough time to win this raffle – supporting our adoption – schedule a photo session and order your holiday cards!  For only $2 per ticket, or $5 for three tickets you can win a chance to win a free photography session with a talented friend of mine, Jessica Helton.  She has graciously donated an hour of her skilled time to help bring home Baby Hicks.

To purchase a ticket, simply click here to go to paypal, sign in to your account, enter my very first email address ever (don’t laugh): rickieretardo@hotmail.com (thanks to an old family nickname), and enter the amount for how ever many tickets you would like to purchase.

Then, on November 19th at 7pm, I’ll draw the winner.  So hurry and purchase your tickets if you’re interested in this great chance to sit for your photos with Jessica.  Use it right away for Christmas pictures, or save it for another upcoming big event in your life.

Thanks for being a part of this journey with us.

Jessica Helton Photography

It’s Not Going To Be Easy; It’s Going To Be Worth It

November is National Adoption Month.

Last Friday, my hubby and I spent all day in a conference room, learning more and more about this crazy adventure we’re getting started on called adoption.  We heard from other families who had recently adopted, and from a birthmother who had placed her child with another family.  Amazing stories.  Stories that were heart warming and heart breaking at the same time.  And so, I’m coming to understand even more that adoption is half agony and half hope, for all parties involved.

With domestic adoptions costing anywhere between $8,000 – $40,000, I thought it’d be a great time to start our shirt fundraiser to bring home the child God has for us, and raise awareness about adoptions.  I designed this shirt based on some lessons God has been teaching me through these last years, that I wrote about a tiny bit more in the post Dark Storms.

Life can sometimes brings unexpected storms.  But there is one constant you can always cling to, The Lord.  Through our storm of infertility, The Lord has always been there comforting us, leading us, and growing us.  He has shown us that He has special plans for our family, and that plan includes the heart ache and hope of adoption.  He is our anchor in this storm.

There are two ways you can help us, and join us in this adoption journey.

1. Purchase a shirt…or two.

2. Spread the word about this easy opportunity.

Checking Back In On My Summer Bucket List

The fall is my busy season.  This year, although I saw it coming and prepared diligently, it has still hit me hard.

I’ve been so overwhelmed lately, working on projects from home until the late hours, or coming home exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually, that I haven’t wanted to do anything but head to bed.  Sometimes I feel like I am barely able to form sentences, or even a complete thought. Yet I just keep pressing forward, trying to work on things so they are done in time.

I’ve had no energy for me.  I haven’t cleaned my house in two weeks.  I haven’t really been grocery shopping (with a meal plan) for almost a month now.  I’m lucky I’ve been able to keep up with the laundry…thanks in part to my great hubby who often pitches in.  I just feel like I’ve been spinning in a whirlwind.

The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was fire up my computer to work on something fun, that didn’t have a deadline.  And so, my blog posts just stopped, and all became quiet.  And I realized today, on my way home, maybe that IS what I need…I need to check back in with me, to work on something creative, to take a break from the hard stuff, and be refreshed by creating something new.

Other than this post, I’m not sure what that will entail tonight.  Maybe some drawing, maybe some crocheting (definitely fall now, so it’s time for some fall crafting), I should work on digitizing some previous drawings so I could possibly open an Etsy shop and sell them for our adoption fund.  But right now, I don’t want to do anything I “should” be doing.  So, I probably won’t.

I can’t believe the fall is not only here, but that it’s already October!!!  Where did the summer go?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THE FALL, it’s my favorite time of year!  But it seems like just last week I was writing my Summer Bucket List.  What happened!?!  I didn’t even manage to complete half of my goals.

  1. Go Exploring
  2. Skate in an Away Bout
  3. Go Stargazing
  4. Grill Out with Friends
  5. Go Camping
  6. Go Mini Golfing
  7. Go Bowling with Friends
  8. Read at least 5 Books
  9. Learn More About Blogging
  10. Go Tubing Down the River
  11. Work on My Blog
  12. Scan & Organize Family Photos
  13. Pay Off Our Medical Bills
  14. Watch an Entire TV Series on Netflix
  15. Have a Day of Solitude
  16. Get Back to Eating Better
  17. Go to the Beach
  18. Clean Out My Craft Supplies

Oh well!  At least I was able to cross some of those things off of my list.

Now please don’t read this post like a pitty party – that’s not what I intended at all.  I just wanted to be real, and share where my head has been lately, and why I haven’t been here.  And to maybe encourage you, to also take some time to refresh your soul, in what ever way serves you best.  After all, when I am rested and refreshed, I am better able to serve others.  It’s ok to take a break and take care of yourself.  It’s important, YOU are important.  What is one thing you enjoy doing that refreshes your soul?

Less Hustle

#lessHUSTLERecently I’ve been pondering the idea of #HUSTLE.  I’ve seen it around more and more.  It’s usually seen as a positive thing.  And usually, when someone is talking about it, they use the term: side hustle.  Meaning…something they do on the side of their “real” job.  This #HUSTLE is usually a passion they have, that they’d love to make a career out of, and leave their current “real” job.  It is something that takes passion and drive to pursue, because you are working on it like a full time job, in addition to your other full time job and other life responsibilities.  It’s doing more, working harder, going farther, just going-going-going.

After listening to podcasts, reading blog posts and seeing some amazing artwork on Instagram in tribute to the hustle, I was starting to believe it was a good thing.  And while there is an aspect of the whole concept that I do love…work hard on what you love, there was part of me that was rebelling.  Something about the #HUSTLE just didn’t sit right with me.

And one morning, while I was enjoying a few quiet moments it hit me, what I need is not #HUSTLE, but #lessHUSTLE.  I need less items on my calendar, less commitments I need to fulfill, less stuff.  I long to simplify…everything.

I need more time to do what’s important now, not be stuck in the yeses of yesterday that I was too scared to say no to.

Then, later I was listening to a podcast with Ann Voskamp, which led me to her blog, where I found a beautiful quote that I needed more than I realized…I wrote it down, but ended up ignoring it anyways.  She was talking about how life gets crazy and chaotic, and everyone just gets louder and louder.  Days are just filled with noise.  And how, the only way to combat the noise is to whisper.  What!?!  Yep, she said, “whisper, when everyone yells, no one can hear.”

That resonated so much with me.  And I needed to hear it so badly.  But what did I do?  Later that day, when I was feeling frustrated and not heard and not valued, I began yelling.  Not at anyone in particular…just talking much, much louder than my normal voice.  Feeling pushed aside, I pushed others away with my angry tones.  Even when others offered to help, I pushed them away and said it was no use.  What happened to that whisper I had just learned about?  It had been eaten up in the #HUSTLE of life.

I don’t want to have my mood effected so quickly like that.  I don’t want more #HUSTLE.  I want to enjoy my time with others, enjoy the beauty of the day, spend quality and quantity of time and energy focusing not on what else I have to get done that day, but what I’m doing right now and who I’m with.  I want #lessHUSTLE.

If you could give up one thing to have #lessHUSTLE, maybe even a good, worthy, “Yes” that you’ve committed to, what would that be?

In the Wait

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12: 11-12

Jesus never promises us a life without trials. In fact, He says the opposite in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” So it’s just a matter of time before you face your difficulties. And that is why these verses are so important. He knew we would have trials, and have questions, so these are our instructions:

wait1. Be faithful in prayer…when you’re in the midst of a really difficult time you often have questions for God that go unanswered, you feel abandoned, and sometimes the last thing you want to do is pray. Yet He reminds us to keep at it.

Be faithful in prayer, do it regularly.  Sometimes I feel like I run out of things to say or like I can’t quite put words to my thoughts and don’t know where to start…so I just don’t start at all.  And the enemy loves that.  To combat that loss of where to start, I began praying through some scripture.  That usually helps get me going, and God ends up using it in an amazing way to speak right to my heart.

I just needed to wait and not move on to the next thing on my calendar or to-do list.

2. Be patient in affliction…I don’t know about you, but if I’m hurting I want to get out of that pain as soon as possible. Yet He encourages us to be patient in our afflictions. We can trust that He only has good in store for us, and that through these hard times, something good will come.

While we are looking forward to the end, to the goal, God is focusing on the process itself.  This is where He can do the most work on our hearts, if we wait in trust and let Him.

3. Be joyful in hope…when do you need to have hope? When you are still waiting for something to happen. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m waiting I am not naturally joyful. Especially if it’s been a long wait.  In fact, the longer the wait, the grouchier I get.  It’s very difficult to find your joy when you are still in the middle of a difficult time; but that is what God calls us to do.

And I think the wording gives us a little clue as to how long these hard times will seem…hope, patience, faithful….sounds like a long wait to me.  No matter what your challenge is, or the length of your hard time, it always seems long doesn’t it?  But God asks us to wait.

It’s almost like He is looking at a beautiful sunset that we can’t quite see over the mess right in front of us, and He whispers, “wait…look, look what I’m doing here…it’s beautiful.  YOU are beautiful.”

Mondays Menagerie {11}

A quick weekly wrap up of all the random things I’ve been enjoying this past week.  Things I loved, or learned something from, things I think you might enjoy too.  I hope you appreciate them as well…and so, here are my weekly top 5 favorite things:

Weekly Top 5 Favorite Things

Weekly Top 5 Favorite Things

1. An underwhelmed schedule = an overwhelmed soul.  This concept has been resonating with me so much lately.  Such a good decision to get The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and start reading it.  (stay tuned for my Friday post where I talk about #lessHUSTLE)

2. This tent canopy…it will be happening in our nursery!  Or, maybe this one.  It’s nice to have something to get excited about, finally.  It’s been a long, hard journey, and I’m ready for this adventure to take a different turn.

3.  More nursery stuff…I think there will be quite a few DIY projects, and using some limbs from our yard to frame out a mirror will definitely be happening too.  (Like this one.)

4.  I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s blog off and on for a while now, and lover her sense of humor.  But recently, I heard on a podcast that she did an HGTV show, and I knew I had to see it.  It didn’t disappoint.  I loved watching them take their old farm house and transform it with bold colors and fun accents, while repurposing things as they went to save money and be green.  But my favorite part by far was the kitchen.

5. This tweet from Mark Batterson…being reminded daily how I need to pray more, and more, and more.

Car Windows & Ice Cream Cones

(For a writing prompt from The Daily Post.)

Ice cream cones and open car windows in the summertime do not mix.  Some might think this is common sense, but I know this from experience.

It was the summer of 1997, the day after graduation, I loaded up my stuff and my best friend, and had an adventure.  We drove across the country to my new home outside of Columbus.  My family had moved cross country, from Arizona to Ohio.  And the plan was to stay with my parents the first year of college, in exchange for them allowing me to stay behind and graduate at my high school instead of starting all over for my senior year in Ohio.

My best friend came with me, just for fun, as part of her summer vacation.  With the windows down, us and the wind blowing free, we spent the next several weeks exploring this new part of the country – neither of us having been this far east before.  We took day trips to the different theme parks in Ohio, like Kings Island and Cedar Point.  And we explored the immediate countryside and small towns close by.

Me & LBMy little sister, going into middle school at a new school, in a new town was reasonably self-conscious about what people thought of her.  Always wanting to make a good impression.  My crazy friend and I had a high school graduate confidence to us and could care less what others thought.  Bored, we decided to tease her one day, dress in horribly tacky outfits, and take her to town to rent a movie.

On our way there, we had to pass through a construction zone, with a flagger, and about half a dozen guys just standing on the side of the road.  Being friendly to all the cars passing by with a wave, they slowly stopped waving and just stared at us as we slowly drove by.

On our way back home, we stopped at the Creme Corner – the best local place to get ice cream in our small town in Ohio.  It was while we were driving back home, with the windows down, when one of my favorite memories happened.  If you ask me to tell the story, to this day, I still break down in a fit of laughter that usually leads to wheezing.

See, my friend and I were jamming to some music, enjoying the ice cream, the wind and the ride home when from the back seat we hear a pitiful cry for help.

“Guys, umm, hey guys, can you please roll up the windows?”  To which we replied, “No way!  It’s beautiful outside.”

She tried again, “please, please roll up the windows?”  We just ignored her.

“GUYS!  PLEASE ROLL UP THE WINDOWS!”

After a quick glance in the rear view, I almost crashed my car from laughing so hard.  It looked like a gallon of dip in’-dots had exploded all over my back seat, my back window, and my poor little sister.  Apparently she was not able to keep up with the ice cream that was melting on her cone, and the wind from the open windows was having some fun distributing it everywhere.

The look on her face was priceless, helpless, covered in speckles of ice cream, hair windblown, and the cone in her hand that just kept melting.

It’s memories like this that I love to dust off for a great laugh on not so great days.
writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2

Decreasing My Comfort Zone

I was reading through some of John 4 and realized Samaria reminds me of the United States.  The Samaritans believed in the first five books of the bible, it was a part of their foundation.  Our country was founded on biblical principles, and you can still find those influencing a lot of even non-Christian culture today.  Most people (in the US) have some type of knowledge about Christ and/or Christianity and a lot choose to ignore Him, and chase after other pleasures.

Often as Christians we try to avoid those who do not agree with our point of view or “standards” just like the Jewish people avoided the Samaritans back in Jesus’ time.  We avoid people who are outside of our comfort zone.  Yet, Jesus said He “had” to travel through Samaria.  His traveling buddies must have thought He had lost His mind. But Jesus had His reasons.

He often calls us to do something we don’t understand, to talk to someone we don’t know or feel comfortable with, or to do something that is out of our comfort zone.  It’s in these places where we have to depend on Him more, and ourselves less.  And it’s in these places where He is able to do the most through us.  And sometimes we don’t see His reasons in our lives until later, and sometimes we never see or understand why He asks us to do things. Yet, He asks us to trust Him anyways, and share His love with others.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.

That is why, recently, one song that has really been calling out to my heart is Oceans, by Hillsong.   I love the bridge: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”  I love it so much so, that I spent hours on a hand lettering project, just pondering these words over and over in my head.  It’s not perfect, and I know it probably seems like everyone is doing lettering these days…but this was just a fun creative outlet for me.  Each time I hear this song, I focus in on this line, wondering where the Spirit is leading me now.

I pray Lord, that you would please show me where You would have me go and share Your love.  Show me where my comfort zones lie, and help me step outside of them to follow hard after You.

Mondays Menagerie {10}

So, I’ve taken a little break on writing some posts…it wasn’t really a planned break, it just happened.  Life got in the way.  For me the beginning of fall is so busy, as things begin to ramp back up at work.  And we’ve been digging into more and more adoption stuff, which takes time.  Then I had a wonderful visit from a friend.  Plus, I’ve felt kind of a writers block.  I’ve wanted to write, but haven’t really had anything meaningful to write about….even in my journal, it’s fairly quiet.  I’ve been reading a lot, and to help me get back into the swing of writing again, I thought I’d start with sharing some of the things I’ve been reading and enjoying…my usual Monday post.

Each Monday I do a weekly wrap up of all the random things I’ve been enjoying this past week.  Things I loved, or learned something from, things I think you might enjoy too.  I hope you appreciate them as well…and so, here are my weekly top 5 favorite things:

Weekly Top 5 Favorite Things

Weekly Top 5 Favorite Things

1. This ink beauty by Emilee Rudd, it’s gorgeous!  I am really in awe of the ink work on her Instagram feed.  View original instagram

2. Parenting Doesn’t Get Easier. But We Can Go Easy on Other Parents by Kristin at www.wearethatfamily.com.  A great post about passing judgement on other parents/people. We’ve all been there, don’t deny it.  As we begin this journey to adoption, and I read the stories about children in foster care I realize my parenting is going to have to look different than I originally thought it would.  And there will probably be times where I would have done things differently if they were my biological children, maybe that’s wrong, but I can see times in my future where people will probably look at me like I’m doing it wrong.  But my favorite quote from the post was: “I may not do things the way you do them, but I do it my way for a reason. And that doesn’t make me wrong.”  That is so freeing.

3. It’s the fall, so of course one of my favorite things happening right now is college football.  I miss the smell of the campus in the fall, I love the energy you can feel in the air. I don’t miss the traffic, and getting stuck either at my apartment or away from it for all of game day.  And I love how, even in South Carolina we can get a hardy IO for my OH.  You can feel some of the energy of the fall here.

4. I LOVE the fact that our student ministry baptized 30 people at the beach this weekend!  What amazing life change is happening each Labor Day Weekend, year after year, and they just keep getting better!

5. And finally, the fun part of adopting…planning out the nursery.  All throughout our marriage, John and I have said that it’s always an adventure when we’re together.  And at each new twist in our path together, there is an adventure.  When life doesn’t happen the way we plan, it’s an adventure.  This journey finding our baby that God has for us, it is definitely an adventure.  And so, it’s pretty obvious what our theme should be for our little one…adventure!  And I love this collection mood board, it’s helping us get started on our nursery.