on 2015

It was a year.. 2015.  I didn’t like it.  I sit here in a quiet house on New Year’s Day and I cannot wait for this year (or really more this chapter) to be over.  I long for new.

Typically at the end of the year I’ve reviewed the “highlights” of Underwooddays for the year..  I summarize the high peaks.  And while there have been peaks this past year, there have also been some pretty low places.  I debate on how candidly to share.. but if there is one thing I want said of my writing, my life, of ME is that I’m the real deal.  I won’t say what you want me to say, or pretend I feel something that I don’t.   So if I had sent out a Christmas letter (something I did years ago)  it wouldn’t boast about our kids, or the vacations we took, it wouldn’t talk about our careers or personal achievements and tie up beautifully with a spiritual reflection.  It would have gone something more like this-

In 2015 we felt broken

  • We went through the training/paperwork and were licensed with our county for foster care.  This was a huge step of obedience on our part as we went in with (what we thought were) eyes wide open.  We had four foster kids in our home from June till October.  I am thankful to have known each of the kids.  It was a crazy adventure! The county drops off these kids as complete strangers that will now live in your house as part of your family.  They bring a backpack of belongings, they tell you a few things about the kids, and then they leave!  We had a preemie baby who we had to wake for feedings cause he just wasn’t that interested.  We had two sisters (less than a year apart) at one and two with significant motor and verbal delays and bigger issues with food.  And then we had a two month old chunky boy “baby A”  who started stealing pieces of my heart week one.  When he left this fall (after being with us for three months),  I was not okay. He went back to his mom.  I could tell myself this was good and this was the goal.. but still it felt like someone had taken my baby. And stealing babies is NOT okay.  I’ve cried a lot and still when one of our kids is looking through my phone pictures and shows me baby A.  I’m not okay.  So, we’re taking a break.  To hopefully rest and heal but still stay a part of foster care somewhere down the road in 2016.
  • We continued to transition at Anchor Point (Ryan’s work).  We’ve been on staff at Anchor Point for three years now.  It was a decision we made SO confidently after attending the church and getting to know our former pastor.   As a wife it was almost a miracle (three years ago) to see my husband not only working in a church again, but excited identifying with the vision of where the church was going! After our first six months at Anchor Point our pastor resigned.  And Ryan and I looked at each other internally screaming. We were so certain about where we thought we were going!  And now we were going somewhere new.  Our time at Anchor Point has been one of transition.  This year I would call it a season of grief in that transition process.  Because letting go of something you thought you had (and wanted) is plain hard.  Working hard in a new direction in the midst of letting that go is even harder. But-  I love my husband.  I will always say whatever church (or organization) that gets him is blessed.  He works hard. He is talented (seriously talented).  He loves people. He loves life.  And if we’re talking about the real deal- Ryan Underwood is that.  When un-churched people tell me they respect my husband or would attend his church.. that’s when I feel totally okay with being called a pastor’s wife.  But this year has worn him out.  He has come home tired (in the midst of foster care) and our crazy life with three cute kids.  And it has been hard.
  • In 2015 I’ve also been dealing with health issues.  Any Doctor (or therapist) would attribute this to a higher level of stress in my life.. I would agree.  But this year has been brutal with my temperament.  I push myself hard and never want health issues to define the way I live.  And yet some days they do.  I’ve been to my Doctor some, tried alternative care, chiropractic, massage, Pilates, and even acupuncture in hopes of managing now chronic issues I have with sleep, back/neck pain, and stomach issues.  Oh, and gray hair (that might top the list).

The thing about this feeling of brokenness is that there are so many questions from this past year.  Just “why”?  Both of these decisions (being licensed with foster care and coming on staff at Anchor Point) were things that we felt 100% clarity on.  We stepped into them as a team.  We thought our eyes were open and our questions had been answered.. and the last year has been a lot of asking “what are we doing”?   Not that I think just because we feel called to do something that means it will be walking through a field of daises, but this year has thrown us for a loop.  As I write this I think of all the other people I KNOW that have had a hard year.  A much harder year.  In no way do I write thinking we’ve gone through the depths of despair.. that we’ve had it the worst.  We haven’t.  I just feel broken and wish I could put things back together.  I want the mess cleaned up. And I can’t clean it up myself.  I can’t heal my heart faster or answer the hard questions.

If at this point reading you feel depressed.  I’m sorry.  I warned you quite fairly.  In closing 2015 and looking at the new 2016 calendar.. I want to look at brokenness honestly.  To say life doesn’t make sense.  It hurts like hell sometimes.  And yet there is good.

Familypics

In 2015 we grew.  Look at our three kiddos!  They are tall and smart and questioning and spunky.  And I am SO thankful for the gift of  being a family.  This has probably been one of the bigger lessons I’ll take away from 2015.  I was constantly reminded and brought to tears by the gift we have as a family.  We’re not alone.  I also close the year believing in my Father.  He created me.  He knows everything about how I’m wired.  He knows how my heart aches and the questions I have.  He has a plan with where we’ll go from here.  This is not the end.  I feel calmer knowing this brokenness will be used towards something.   And I CANNOT WAIT for 2016 and seeing what that is!  I also believe in my husband.  If there was a year (in our twelve years together) to test our devotion to one another and to God- this was it.  There have been rough moments- raw stuff.  But there have been beautiful moments reminding me how marriage is our best practice on how to love and serve another.  My husband seems committed to me (crazy as that is) through even the rougher places.

So we press on to 2016..  hopeful for fresh starts and continued growth.  Feeling richly blessed to be together.

*photo credit to Kiley Marissa Photography

this is it

So- I took the whole summer off of blogging.  Unintentional.. but I had a sense that might be coming.  Whoops.  I’m okay with that. Blogging has never and will never be about stats or followers.  It’s been a place to put my voice.  It’s where I write thoughts that I’ve been tossing around for weeks.  It’s where I document our family and how we’re growing/changing. And if it’s a place where others can come to hopefully be encouraged, or inspired, or just not feel alone.. major bonus!  And so- I’m back.. with a lot of words needing to be written. First of which-  This is it –

My mother-in-law sent me a photo copy from a devotional I had sent her this summer.  (I love how it came back to me!)  The devotional went like this:

This is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes- this is it.  This is it, in the best possible way.  That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movie score worthy experience unfolding gracefully.  This is it.  Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and our secrets. I believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in the garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was only coal.  This way of living and noticing and building can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without even realizing it.  

June first we were licensed with foster care and have spent the majority of our summer with at least one extra kiddo here.  So this break from blogging for me has been largely consumed by parenting.  Summer break + foster kids… Just imagine how excited I am for school to start in SIX days!!  It’s always interesting to me how people will choose to respond to major life changes you are making.  With foster care I’ve heard a few reactions. But mostly the question “why do that NOW?”  My response “why not?”

The foster care system is heart breaking.  I have to be really careful in not posting identifying pictures on social media, or giving too many of the details about the four kids we’ve now had in our home- but it is summed up well by saying it has broken my heart. I’ve allowed myself to see the faces and stories of “foster care”.  I’ve allowed myself to fall in love with kids that are not my own and won’t permanently be a part of my life.  But the heart break again teaches me that there is beauty in pain.  Real beauty.  By opening ourselves up to this we’ve seen our three kids respond amazingly to loving and caring for complete strangers to them. We’ve had people in our church family join the foster care team by lending us baby gear, bringing us meals, babysitting, and just listening.  We’ve had my sister Debbi stop in more with coffee and cuddle time (for the kids) and show up instantly to help treat our two-year-old foster girl who had lice.  Like major lice.  That is love!

When we started the paperwork for foster care I had so many questions and doubts about how this would work for our family.  Three months in and I am so so thankful that we didn’t wait.  That we didn’t put off this feeling that we were to be involved thinking that a better time was coming.  Foster care is changing me.  I am able to look at our three kids with new eyes.  I’m able to see motherhood (with all the ups and downs) as a much bigger gift- because I have them here.  Day in and day out I have my family.  Through our dreams, prayers, fights, and victories.

This is it!

tidbits

It’s been a blur of spring.  We’ve celebrated FOUR birthdays since I last wrote here.  We now have a 7, 5, and 3 year old (and..my husband is another year older).  The kids are getting so big which makes sense.. I’ve been feeling older.

In May we took a “real” family vacation to Florida with the Underwoods (all nine of us!)  It was beautiful, warm, and so relaxing.  We were sad to leave knowing it will be a good while till we’re together again. Family is a gift to have around and helping.  Period.

Last week I took the girls and watched as Jameson “graduated” from kindergarten.  So amazing to watch this guy grow over the past year.  The charter school has been a great fit for him.  He soared academically, met new friends, found a passion for playing soccer during recess, and loved his teacher.  At the close of the school year he came up with what he wanted to get her as a gift and on his own wrote her a thank you card that closed with “you’re the best teacher a kid could ever have“.  And then I cried.:)

Kindergarten year was a success.. for that I am SO thankful.

My husband (Ryan) has been training for his first marathon.. which is 26.2 miles of running. I cannot even imagine doing this to my body.  Watching him train makes me more tired and more motivated at the same time.  It’s a weird combination.  I 100% support this guy! When he puts his mind to something.. he does it.  And he does it well.  I think it’s the combination of being stubborn and gifted.  I have loved watching the things he has accomplished.  Excited to cheer him on in new adventures for his 32nd year!

The spring has come fast and furious which leaves me in this perfectly happy state at home.  I’m excited to mow the grass and plant more flowers.  I’m excited to walk and run and stay outside as much as possible.  Because I know what happens next- I’ll be sending TWO kids off on the school bus! And then I’ll cry.  And smile.

I also DON’T know what happens next.  As of June 1st we’re active and waiting for a placement with foster care.  AH!  I’ve shared a bit here about our journey thinking about foster care.  It’s been a six month process since we made that first call to the county.  In all honesty, I’ve felt quite uncomfortable the whole six months.  But when I stop thinking about me and the reservations and questions I have..  and I’m able to think of kids with broken stories.  Then I’m okay.  I’m okay with reservations and not having answers.  I’m okay with being uncomfortable.  Because I was being pretty pitiful thinking only of myself in the first place.

So the months ahead here on the blog may be quiet like the months before.. but visit once in awhile.  This space will still be updated-  at least with pictures!

Happy summer to you friends!

switching things up

Given the lack of response on my last blog post- I take it you guys don’t do spring cleaning.  Strange.  Well- it’s a thing.

I’ve tried something a little different this year with spring cleaning and have been cleaning one room at a time. Like a serious deep clean.  I’m dumping out closets and washing curtains.  How far am I?  Two rooms down.  Which means spring cleaning will be done somewhere in the fall months.  We’ll just call it the epic clean of 2015.

I like order.  I like clean.  I like minimal.  That’s how I’d describe how I want my home to feel.  But then I have three cuties (four) and a puppy and I know REAL life means there will be little order and clean is oh so so temporary!  I don’t maintain things daily/weekly.  Piles form, potty training happens, the calendar goes crazy, and things get rotated from one space to a messier space. All this to say- extra focus on ONE space is refreshing.

This is also my first spring cleaning since reading this book mentioned here, but I find myself thinking Myquillyn (the authors) tips about how to “shop your house” and make it work for you. I’ve moved shelving, donated, and then in the middle of cleaning room #1 it dawned on me that it really would make more sense if Ry and I switched bedrooms with our girls. Their room looks more like the master bedroom as the main wall is actually big enough to have an end table on both sides of the bed.  Imagine!  In our current room setup my side of the bed is in the corner which means I get a crack to get out of in the mornings.  It’s dangerous.  Especially since I don’t have my glasses on (because I can’t store them on an end table beside me), there is absolutely NO coffee in my system, and my sleep medication is still wearing off.

Myquillyn would do it!  She’d tell me to switch the bedrooms!

I thought the idea was inspired and couldn’t wait to tell Ry!  Ry didn’t call it inspired.  He called it WORK.  Twelve years later and we still haven’t changed each another.. and I should have known Ry’s first reaction wouldn’t be to praise my inspiration/creativity.

I often approach change with “why wouldn’t we?” my husband with “why would we?” During one of our discussions on the bedroom swap idea I said something to the extent of people switching bedrooms and repainting bedrooms ALL THE TIME.  To which I felt the need to add: “how many times did you switch bedrooms at your house in Hendersonville growing up?” (I just knew that would add another point on my side).  His response: “NEVER”.  And I just stared at him.  Never?

We’re okay.  I like to think deep down Ry married me (partially) because I ask why wouldn’t we?  He calls me nuts, he usually gets on board with my ideas, and in the end we have another story to tell.  Like the time we switched bedrooms…