On Family Pictures & Waves of Grief

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Hodgson Family ~ Fall 2015

Family pictures are a tricky thing for me. I treasure photos greatly. I enjoy the art of taking pictures, looking and re-looking at pictures and capturing precious moments. However, whenever it comes to family photos, though there is a smile on my face, my heart is divided. I can’t help but think of our precious sons who should be beside us in our family pictures. It almost seems wrong to capture a “family” photo without them! However, this is our family, at present, and I desperately want it captured nonetheless. I even go so far as to think, “What if this is our last family photo together?!?!” Because sometimes it is, and we just never know. On the flip side, I thank God for the family I have here and that gives me reason to smile and capture this moment. I suspect I will always feel the void, the struggle and the pangs of sadness.

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Christmas 2011 ~ Our Last “Family” Picture with Andrew

I didn’t anticipate grief flooding in this Christmas season. The waves definitely come fewer and farther between, and this one came unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. Dear friends were sharing their burdens of loss and pain during Sunday School one morning. Their hearts echoed what was all too familiar to me. I bit my lip and wrestled through class, thinking I could hold it together because I’m typically not much of a crier. I ducked my head and made a beeline for my spot on the pew for service,  I just couldn’t shake this deep sorrow that filled my heart. Images of the day we lost Andrew flashed through my mind. The throbbing ache in my arms, desperate to hold my children close, was there. I wondered and worried about how my surviving children would deal with the deaths of their brothers into their adult years. The memories, thoughts and tears wouldn’t stop. This Christmas a dear friend gifted our kids with Christmas outfits, and I kept thinking, Andrew and Isaiah should have matching outfits too! It just didn’t seem fair. I simply could not hold back the tears that came in torrents down my face. I had to walk out of that service and go home. I felt unable to stand up under the weight of the grief. It felt so bizarre to be feeling these gut wrenching emotions, seemingly out of the blue. I suspect these moments will always come. It’s all part of the journey. I’m still not used to it and am surprised by grief.

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December 2015

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Four Beautiful Children in Christmas Outfits

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Christmas 2015

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Here’s to 2016! Happy New Year!

In 2015, family pictures, Christmastime and ringing in the New Year held another new set of emotions for me. Throughout the festivities, I kept wondering if, perhaps, this was our last Christmas as a family as we now know it. Would we be sharing our celebrations with a new son or daughter next Christmas season? If God would allow us to add to our family in 2016, we would be so grateful. I treasured this season with my family a little bit differently, not knowing what 2016 would hold.

By the grace of God, and with hope, I do know Who holds 2016. I’m thankful for His faithfulness. I’m trusting in His provision and timing, glad that He can see the big picture that I can’t. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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2015-2016 Homeschool Year

It’s that time of year again!! I can’t believe another school year is upon us! Where did our summer go?!?! We are entering our sixth year of homeschooling! This year I’m excited because our homeschool space got a bit of an overhaul since we had water in our basement and had to replace the flooring. It’s fresh and organized and I’m going to enjoy it for the wee bit of time that it stays that way. 🙂

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Here are a couple pictures of our first day of school:

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The Whole Crew (plus one) ~ 2015-2016 School Year


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Lillyanna Faith ~ almost 2 1/2 years old


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Allie Gabriella ~ 5 years old


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Ethan Alexander ~ 7 years old


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Colton Benjamin ~ 9 years old

Because it’s always fun to look at old pictures, here are a few pictures of years gone by just to compare:

2014-2015 School Year

2014-2015 School Year


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2013-2014 School Year


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2012-2013 School Year

Aren’t they so cute?!?! Time just flies by…

So, here’s what we plan to be doing this year:

2015/2016 Homeschool Curriculum Plan

Allie – Kindergarten

Five In A Row – Volumes 2 & 3

Art: Draw and Learn People (Second Half)

Bible: Answers Book for Kids/Memorize James 2/Memorize the Names of the Books of the Bible

Handwriting: HWOT Letters and Numbers for Me (Repeat from Last Year)

Math: Saxon K (Second Half)

Reading: All About Reading Level 1 & Level 2

Other:  Calendar, Story of Me, Address/Phone Number/Pledge of Allegiance, Me on the Map, Show & Tell, Swimming Lessons, Children’s Choir, Homeschool Family Fellowship

Ethan – 2nd Grade

Five In A Row – Volumes 2 & 3

Bible: Answers Book for Kids/Memorize James 2/Memorize the Names of the Books of the Bible

Geography: Stack the States/Stack the Countries

Grammar: First Language Lessons Level 2 (Repeat from Last Year)

History: Story of the World Volume 2 (Text Only)

Math: Saxon 3

Reading: Reading List

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 3

Writing: Writing With Ease Level 1

Other: Story of Me/Before I Was Born, Pledge of Allegiance, Me on the Map, Show & Tell, Swimming Lessons, Soccer, Children’s Choir, Homeschool Family Fellowship

Cody – 4th Grade

Five In A Row – Volumes 2 & 3

Bible: Answers Book for Kids/Memorize James 2/Review the Names of the Books of the Bible

Geography: Stack the States/Stack the Countries

Grammar: First Language Lessons Level 4

History: Veritas Press Self-Paced Middle Ages 

Math: Saxon 65

Reading: Reading List

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 4

Writing: Writing With Ease Level 3

Other: Story of Me/Before I Was Born, Typing InstructorDuolingo Spanish, Editor In Chief Beginning 2, Pledge of Allegiance, Camp Roger, Me on the Map, Critter Barn Volunteering, Show & Tell, Children’s Choir, Swimming Lessons, Soccer, Homeschool Family Fellowship

Here’s to a new year of crazy homeschooling! What are you planning for this year?

Changing the World and Looking Good While Doing It

I have to tell you about something that is near and dear to my heart. It’s something I’ve been doing for almost a year and I think you should do it too. You won’t regret it. Last fall I enrolled in a membership club that has the power to change the world: Fair Trade Friday Club.

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Fair Trade Friday

Fair Trade Friday is a monthly membership club that delivers high quality fair traded items to your door. The items in the box are fairly traded and provide employment to women all over the world. Plus, they are really cute! There are currently multiple monthly options: the original (and very popular) Fair Trade Friday box—this include 3-4 surprise items (think stylish accessories, organic soap, coffee, etc); the next option is a one-time-box to try out as a trial or give as a gift; and finally, the brand new option: Earring of the Month. 100% of the proceeds from each product go toward the empowerment of impoverished women as an avenue to introduce them to the Gospel.

One of my favorite quotes from the Fair Trade Friday website: “We truly love helping people and especially empowering the oppressed. The best way we have found to do that is let them discover their own value. Our desire is that one day, they come to see their value in the God who made them. For now, we can help them see their value in creating something beautiful that, with some marketing, will sustain or supplement their families. Plus, we work hard to establish real life relationships with many of the artisans we work with.”

I’ve been getting a Fair Trade Friday box for several months now and each month I am excited to see the package arrive at my door! The items in each package are unique and beautifully crafted. There’s such a wide variety of items that I am always surprised and excited to see what’s new. I have added several of the items to my own wardrobe but have also given many items as gifts. I’ve received items such as necklaces, bracelets, tote bags, lip balm, soap, coffee, earrings, coin purses, headbands, scarves, and so much more! The variety is so fun!

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Clutch by JOYN India

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Scarf by JOYN India. Hand Woven/Hand Stamped/Hand Sewn

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Boot Cuffs by The Refugee Project

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Bangles by The Refugee Project

This past month I received a pair of earrings from the new Earring of the Month Club. These earrings are so cool! They are wonderfully constructed and just so beautiful! I just love them.

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Earrings by Village Artisans | Earring of the Month

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Beautiful Earrings!

Today is Friday. It’s the first Friday of the month and that means a Fair Trade Friday package is due on my doorstep. Eek!! Even better, I got my shipment early this month and it arrived on Wednesday. That was a fun surprise! This package contained one of my favorite items so far: a beautiful frame from Village Artisans. Isn’t that gorgeous?!?!

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July 2015 Fair Trade Friday Box

As much as I adore these products, increasingly more so, I love the heart behind this membership program and the fact that my contribution is empowering women. It is giving work to hundreds of women each and every month. It is helping them send their children to school. They are able to put food on their tables. They wake up in the morning with purpose and pride because of what they can create.

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Maureen, Clothed in Hope, Zambia | Image Courtesy of Fair Trade Friday

The women of Clothed in Hope, all vulnerable women who have completed or are currently walking through our skills-training program, are so very grateful for our partnership with Fair Trade Friday/Mercy House. The first time I told them about our big order for coin purses to reach the homes of over 500 women across America, over 60 women cheered, screamed, danced, rejoiced. Because to them it’s not just some extra money in their pockets to feed their kids or pay school fees. It’s empowerment, it’s someone who says “I believe in you. I am with you.” It gives the message to these ladies, overlooked and oppressed by society, that they are worthy. That they have something beautiful to offer the world, a skill and a story that can inspire women thousands of miles away. Each product made for Fair Trade Friday boxes, from coin purses to earrings, is a way for women to rejoice in their story of hope and redemption that they’ve written as a part of our sewing and business training program in Lusaka, Zambia.

Maureen, the woman pictured with Regina on her back, is the brains behind much of our jewelry line, specifically a beautiful earring design headed out to women as part of the Earring of the Month Club. Maureen graduated our life-skills training program in September 2014 after completing a 12-month sewing and business curriculum with her daughter Regina on her back. Maureen is showing her children that work is good, and that no obstacle is big enough to keep her from pursuing her dreams for her family. 

Who knew that I could help change the world and look good doing it?!?! You can too. You won’t regret it. Read more at fairtradefriday.club.

Love the idea of a box of goodies every month at your door? Sign up for the Fair Trade Friday Box here. Have you fallen in love with the idea of a new pair of earrings every month? Sign up for the Earring of the Month Club here. These memberships are so popular, there might be a wait list (there was when I got started too) but never fear, add your name to the list and you’ll be contacted before you know it. It’ll be worth the wait!

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Earrings Can Change the World | Image Courtesy of Fair Trade Friday

Fair Trade Friday is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, a non-profit organization. While you’re at it, also be sure to check out The Mercy Shop!

Choosing FairTrade

Choose Fair Trade! | Image courtesy of Fair Trade Friday Club

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

Praise God! We held two yard sales already this summer!! Whew! Good thing we have the rest of the summer to relax! 😉

Come one! Come all!

We are, again, beyond grateful for the way God brought everything together. He provided the space, some great weather, the awesome stuff, the shoppers and more funds toward our adoption. Thank you to all who helped us in countless ways. We couldn’t do this without you guys! That’s the awesome part about being invested in community and part of the family of God. We’re made to work together! It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

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Good company. 🙂

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Fixin’ up some flashy signs!

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More good company. 🙂

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EARLY morning set up. Ben’s dad went over and above for both of our sales this year!

Our sales this year worked much like last year. We had a huge amount of items donated and were busting at the seams. We spent hours sorting, pricing, organizing and setting up. This year, we were sadly missing Neena’s amazing baked goods, but the kids happily tried to compensate.

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Handsome salesmen.

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Who could resist buying a bottle of water from these two cuties?!?!

We still have a few things leftover that we are listing on Craigslist but the majority of our items are sold or donated. Such a great feeling!! Thinking this year would be NOTHING like last year, we had pretty low expectations but high hopes. As usual, we’ve been blown away!! So far, sales total $2491.35!! Woohoo!!

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We make a pretty good team. ❤

And, in even HUGER news…I’m happy to update that God has made it possible for us to have raised over $14,000 toward this adoption so far!! UNBELIEVABLE!! Whenever we’re faced with a huge undertaking my hubby and and I often banter about a quote we heard once along the lines of, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This reminds me of that. When we felt God calling us to adopt for sure, and our faith felt so small, we began the huge task of fundraising. That was a little less than a year ago. Wow. God is so good. We’re eating this elephant one bite at a time. Thanks for helping, because, for us, this elephant is a big one. 🙂

Read-A-Thon UPDATE!

We had so much fun with the Read-A-Thon in March! Thank you so much to all who participated…both sponsors and readers. You guys blew us away!

Photo May 01, 11 49 59 AMNothing thrills my heart like children with their noses in books! That, combined with supporting adoption, has me over the moon.

Photo Mar 29, 9 37 39 PMWe are excited to announce that the Read-A-Thon raised $3,025.05!! Isn’t God so good to provide for this adoption in this super fun way?!?!

Reflections on Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day.

Since I’m a thinker, I did a lot of thinking while my children and husband did their best to spoil me. In no particular order…this is a glimpse of what I thought and felt today.

I thought about Mother’s Day three years ago when grief threatened to crush me. That made my heart ache even more for others out there who are feeling crushed by the weight of today.

I dreamed forward to a day when a beautiful, brown-skinned sweetheart would call me mommy.

I remembered my precious boys who I carried in my womb and cradled in my arms but never had the chance to hear them call me mommy.

I thought about my own mother and how she has impacted me and taught me so much about life, love, dedication, hard work and commitment.

I thought about my husband’s mother. She must have done something right because he is a treasure and I am forever thankful to her for how she mothered him.

I wondered what kind of a legacy I am building for my own children and what they will remember about me when they have children of their own someday.

Mostly, I admired the sweet, amazing people who call me mom Every. Single. Day. I am so thankful for them and for how they fill my life with such joy and goodness. I love how they make me realize my need for a Savior and how lost I would be with Him. They see me at my very worst and love me anyway. They were eager to serve me today and show me special love and adoration. These kids are amazing, wonderful little people who I pray will love Jesus when they are big people. May God grant me the grace to do right by them and lead them to Him by my example.

I am so thankful for this gift of motherhood. The good. The bad. The ugly. And the beautiful. God is so good!

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Looking Back and Reflecting on God’s Grace

Loved

Only by God’s grace is this even possible.

“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~ Jesus

Here is our story of an elementary romance, jail time, unspeakable losses, God’s provision, redemption and the body of Christ. A story that is so laced with Grace only an Amazing God could have so beautifully orchestrated it. All the glory belongs to Him.

We look back to remember how God has walked with us and we look forward to seeing how He writes the rest of our story.

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5