Friday, December 14, 2012

He comforts those...


"Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope,
Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles..."
Psalm 119:49-50



Today my heart is heavy for our hurting and broken world.
For those who lost so much today.
Holding my little ones close with a thankful heart.
And remembering that in Jesus alone do I place my trust.
In the arms of the Father is where I find comfort.
In the promises of a loving God,
is where I find
HOPE.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And so the journey begins....

We have three children, all boys, all born to my womb.
But, we know our family is not complete.

And ever since we became a family, we knew that adopting was something we wanted to do.

But, it always happens in God's timing, right? And how thankful I am for that! 

He has faithfully written our story and I wouldn't wish it to be even one letter different.

So, we feel like God has led us to start the journey...and it's going to be just that. A journey of faith, a journey of patience, a journey to Africa.

We're so excited to begin, we're nervous about the process, we're preparing for the joys and challenges that await us both in the process and in the new "normal" of our life after.

But, mostly, we're peaceful. He's faithful. He's more passionate about adoption then any advocate the world has ever possessed. It was all His idea in the first place. I'm thankful to tap into this part of God's heart...to delve into His love for me and my adoption. To extend that same love and gospel message to a child awaiting a forever family. It's humbling. It's an honor.

"Lord, may we carry your burdens well. May we do the journey well."



***For anyone in the Chicago area...we're having a little Christmas shop on December 8th to raise money for our adoption!! We're selling handmade and vintage items. Things for the house, baked goods, teacher gifts, Christmas items! It will be a lot of fun! We'd love to have you or have you spread the word!





Thursday, October 25, 2012

What we've been up to...

I thought maybe I'd do a little post about 
what we've been up to lately!

Share some Instagram love with you all!

Do you follow me on Instagram?
My username is storehousecrafts if you want to!


So, I'm a regular at our local Goodwill...I've found some great deals!
This mod desk for $5 might be my best find yet though.
However, it is sitting in the garage waiting to be painted 
(story of my life!) HA! 
I'm thinking hot pink and keeping the leg tips gold and maybe
painting more gold tip on the legs...fun desk/sewing table!


The boys room is getting some work...this was after I 
painted their room. The navy wall is awaiting another coat.
See? I always have projects waiting...
They have since gotten new bedding too!
I'll have to do another post when it's all done!


I got some fun flea market time with a friend recently and 
scored this lovely little desk!
It's the perfect side table and stores books/mags/legos....ha!
It is turquoise although you can't tell from the picture.


I've had the honor of listening to my hubby preach twice 
in "big church" lately!
It's been the biggest joy to see him do something he's so
passionate about and great at! 
I'm one happy wifey!


Gavin took a little class field trip to the zoo!
I was a chaperone...I'm rarely able to help with things like this
since I have another little one who is a handful,
but this was a special day!!
They got a little pumpkin afterwards from the zoo pumpkin patch!


Midwest autumns are the best! 
This is outside my porch window....sigh...


I won this book in a giveaway! I'm a huge Christine Caine fan.
She is the founder of The A21 Campaign who fights
against human trafficking. 
I've been so excited to get it in the mail and it finally came!!
Can't wait to dig in!


Little Bear started speech and developmental therapy this past week...
he's doing really great.
And afterwards we get some time just the two of us before Gavin
gets out of kindergarten. It's so good!


This one gets special time while Sawyer naps in the afternoons!
Just the two of us and sometimes the Star Wars gang.
It's so sweet!


Well, hope you're having an amazing week!
We're bracing for a little cold front coming through tonight!
I'm wishing we had raked the leaves while it was warm...
oops!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When they just need a little help


This is my youngest...



He is awesome!
Adventurous, feisty, funny, smart, and unbelievably cute! (I mean, seriously...look at that face!)

He's also been struggling.

We have three boys and each of our boys have been a little slower to talk. They have been very active physically and speech has just taken a bit to catch up. So, I thought that Sawyer was the same...just needed a little extra time.

But, when I noticed he wasn't catching up at two and a half...we decided that we should look into getting some help.

I've never had to ask for professional help concerning my kids before...this is new territory for me and I was surprised at how vulnerable it made ME feel! I feel a little helpless...like my child is struggling and there is nothing I can personally do to make it better.

I'm asking God, "What is it that makes my heart hurt in this process? Why do I feel this way?".

I immediately felt like the Lord said, "It's because you think you can meet all of Sawyer's needs."

Wow. Do I? Do I think that it's all on me to meet every need he has?

Yes. I think I feel like if I don't take care of every need he has myself...that it somehow means I'm not a good mom...that I'm not doing my "job" well.

I read Philippians 4:19 today.


"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus."


Paul didn't say that he would meet their needs...he declared that God would do it all! Paul had experienced so much and just a few verses earlier he talks about how he has known need and he has known plenty. That he has learned a secret to being content and that secret is that he can do all things through Christ's strength and that GOD WILL MEET HIS NEEDS.

Period.

I need new revelation of this today in my spirit with Sawyer.

New revelation that God alone is his "need meeter." That He alone can care for all his needs present and future. God alone is strong enough and rich enough to take it all on.

So, I'm trusting God today with my little one's needs. I'm trusting him with my child's struggle. I'm asking for help from God and from those around me who are equipped to help. I'm willing to partner with my child in his process and see him grow and thrive.

The Lord is going to do something mighty and I'm excited to see Him move!



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Adoption Tax Credit




Have you adopted in the past?
Are you in the process?
Are you thinking about adoption in the future?

Then, welcome to your new job as an advocate!! HA!

I first heard about the situation with the adoption tax credit by doing some digging online. We are hoping to start our adoption process in the near future and I was wanting to know more details about what the tax credit really looks like for a family like mine.

So, I'm by no means and expert, but after listening to a webinar online this week...

I'M FIRED UP!!

I was completely clueless about how the tax credit actually worked, but Save the Adoption Tax Credit is an amazing resource. They were the ones who put on a webinar where they explained the situation more clearly.

This history was so helpful and came from here.

History of the Adoption Tax Credit:


  • Since its introduction in 1997, the adoption tax credit has historically been a non-partisan issue widely supported by Congress, and available in some form every year.
  • The adoption tax credit is available for eligible families that adopt through foster care, intercountry adoption, and private domestic adoption.
  • Over time, the rules of the credit have changed. The requirements for determining families’ eligibility have changed, those adopting children with special needs became eligible to claim the credit without expenses, and the amount of the credit has increased. Before 2010, the credit could be carried forward over multiple years, and in 2010 and 2011 the credit was made refundable, allowing families to receive the full benefit during a single tax year regardless of taxes due that year.
  • Although many bills have been introduced to make the adoption tax credit permanent, they have never passed. Instead, it has always been extended or amended as a part of other pieces of legislation, including the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act in 2001, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act in 2010, and the Tax Relief Act at the end of 2010.
  • In 2012, the credit amount decreased to $12,650. It is no longer refundable, eliminating the availability of the credit to some lower- or moderate-income families without tax liability. The 2012 credit may be carried forward for five additional years, applying to each year’s liability until the full credit amount is used or time expires.
  • The current adoption tax credit will sunset December 31, 2012. If Congress does not take action, the credit will revert back to $6,000 and apply only to the limited number of special needs adoptions that have adoption expenses. No credit will remain for most adoptions.
So, basically on January 01, 2013 the existing tax credit will expire and there will no longer be a tax credit available for adopting families (unless you are adopting a special needs child from the U.S.). 

And honestly, the tax credit as it exists today is not very helpful for most families! As a non-refundable tax credit....a typical middle to lower income family who adopts will only receive about $6,000 of the available almost $13,000. 

This was the best example from the webinar.

Example:

A family has $5,000 in federal income taxes withheld from their paychecks during the year. When they do their taxes, the amount from the tax table shows their federal income tax is $1,000. Because they have no other taxes (like self-employment) or credits, they receive a refund of $4,000. If they adopted with expenses of $8,000, and the credit was not refundable, they would receive a maximum of $1,000 in adoption tax credit for the year (meaning that they have $5,000 instead of $4,000 refunded to them). Since the credit can be carried forward up to five more years, in the end they would get $6,000 over a six-year period.

If the credit was fully refundable, they would receive a refund of $12,000 in one year — their $4,000 regular refund plus the full $8,000 in their adoption expenses.


What can you do to help?

You can start calling, emailing, and writing to your state senators and representatives. There are two specific bills that we are asking them to sponsor and help pass. If these bills are passed...it will make the tax credit inclusive, permanent, refundable, and flat for special needs adoptions. 

We can totally do this!! Go here to learn how to be and advocate for the adoption tax credit.

I would highly recommend going here too for the webinar slides and recording. It was so helpful in putting into clear language the confusion of tax credit law for me!

So, go look up for state information and make a difference!!

Go be an advocate and change a families life forever!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Women can change the world

I remember hearing about this movement and book a while back,

PBS is now airing the documentary...and it's left me speechless.
I'm all at once desperately heartbroken while also so full of hope.

Things are changing.
Voices are being heard in the darkest of places.
And the Kingdom of Heaven will be found on Earth.
Daughters of the King....your time has come.


Monday, October 1, 2012

The World's Best Lasagna...seriously!

So, I have to make a confession...
Around the Otts' house lately, there have not been a lot of elaborate home cooked meals.
This is mostly due to a tight budget and crazy schedule...however, sometimes you just need to roll your sleeves up and do the right thing.

And that is make lasagna...
FROM SCRATCH.

Ya heard me. It's a tedious process, but man...it's so very worth it.

So, I'm going to share with you today the recipe for the "World's Best Lasagna."
I found this recipe on All Recipes. And it is literally called "World's Best Lasagna"...no joke.

And it really is.

Here's the link to the original recipe. HERE.

I wish I could go all PW on you with pictures for each step, but really the recipe is great and you can totally do this. Do not be intimidated.


There are a lot of ingredients...but they are all so necessary. And don't, I repeat don't leave out the sausage...I'm not kidding. The sausage is what makes it.


The awesome thing is that the recipe makes a ton of sauce and I never use it all in the actual lasagna, so the bonus is that you have amazing slow cooked sauce leftover! Freeze it or use it over ravioli for another dinner (like I did...I like carbs in case you didn't know!).


It's heavenly!! Fresh mozzarella people...not that pre-shredded part skim junk. The real deal.

So, there ya go.
You now have a recipe for dinner this week! Invite friends over and enjoy...

or...

make it for yourself and eat it for lunch every day following. Ahem. I mean, not that I did that or anything.



Happy Monday, ya'll!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wedding Love

So, in August I had the chance to help a friend with her
wedding!
It was a lot of fun and a lot of work, but I think it 
turned out really beautiful!

I actually was working so hard on setting up the day of,
that I totally forgot to take pictures (yikes!!). I was so bummed!

Thankfully, my hubby snapped a few while I was setting up...
so I thought I'd share them with you along with some of the handmade things we did.
I'm amazing at how lovely you can make things on such a tight budget.

The key??
BORROW! Borrow anything and everything you might need.
It's a hassle to return it all, but man...you can save a bundle.

The wedding was outside at a park and the weather was perfect...



When guests walked up the path, there was a chalkboard sign and some tissue pom poms
on the bridge (both borrowed...).

Then, they came up to the guest sign in table.
They signed the book, got a program, and left their gifts here.
Everything was stuff we already had laying around and the bride made the bunting!
I brought my old door and strung rope where I hung some Instagrams
the bride ordered from Walgreens...yep...like $4.
Tell them you want a 4x6 cut down to 4x4. Perfection.

Old suitcases, old typewriter, crates, sunflowers....LOVE...







This was the drink table in mid set up...
we used a ton of chalkboard signs, which I loved.
Served lemonade and water with striped paper straws.



The tables were simple with mason jars with tea lights, bouquets of sunflowers,
jars of baby's breath (which are so pretty when done by themselves and not as filler!),
slices of log for height, and burlap runners.

I didn't get a pic, but I stenciled the couple's initials on the ends of the burlap runners
in turquoise. Really easy way to personalize.




I'm so sad I didn't really walk around and get pictures of everything!

The isle was lined with big jars filled with daises and hung on shepherd's hooks.
The dance floor was surrounded by twinkly lights.
I made a cute "love is sweet"banner for the dessert table.
We hung mason jar lanterns all around....

It really was a great night and it was my first experience of 
really putting together someone's big day.

A LOT of work...but so worth it!
I would do it again in a heart beat...maybe with a team...HA!



P.S. I also made this cute sign for the flower girls to carry down the isle...



If only I had the time to do this for a living!!
I told Chris that I just know I'm going to be the banquet feast
planner in Heaven!! HA!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back on the wagon


I'm going to be really honest...
I'm trying to lose weight and get in better shape.

My hope is to lose 20 pounds by Christmas and to be running an average of 12 miles a week.

There.
I said it.

Now it's out there and there's no turning back.

So, that means I'm using this bad boy again...

My Fitness Pal App
It can be tedious to count calories, but you know what?! It really works!
After three kids, it's been the only reliable thing I've used.

You know, the app...and getting my butt to the gym 4-5 times a week.

I know that some of you might be on this journey as well, so I thought that maybe I would take some space on my blog to post some things that might be helpful to you.
Recipes, workouts, cute athletic clothes (because really...it so helps, right?!), and of course I'll be vulnerably sharing my journey of getting in shape for all the world to see! Woo hoo!

So, to start off...

I'm telling you to get the My Fitness Pal App on your phone, ipad, whatever! Now, go do it! 
Seriously. Do it.

Then you can search for me "Christie Otts" in the friends section and voila! We have instant accountability. You can see my daily workout calories, my food diary, etc.

Ok. Let's do this thang.

Looking forward to the journey!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Thanks-Living August


Do you know Leslie?
No? You really should read her blog Top of the Page
It's one of my favorites!

Leslie, is starting a little linky to add your post about thankfulness!
Love this idea!



I'm so excited to jump in with her today!

There is so much that I am thankful for in this season...
in this month!!

But, this is what I'm most thankful for...


in August, we were able to take a trip with Chris' family to Colorado.
We LOVE Colorado.
For both Chris and I, it is a place of real refreshing.


And this hike we took up to a waterfall and mountain lake
was perfection.


Chris comes alive outdoors and I love going on new
adventures with this man.
It is one of the biggest joys of our marriage!


I'm so thankful we had this experience together.
Before we left for Colorado,
it was the one thing I asked the Lord for...
that we would have an adventure together in His creation!


So very thankful!



topofthepagewithleslie

Thursday, August 30, 2012

School has begun...



So, school has started for our little family!
We now have a  half-day kindergartener and a first grader (crazy!)

The boys did great!
Micah's teacher called him "a joy to have in class"!! YAY!
Gavin is making lots of new friends and is proving to be a great little learner!




I've heard numerous people say that they have been so emotional
with their kids starting school this past week.
Me? I didn't shed a tear...is that wrong?! HA!

My boys NEED school right now,
and this mama NEEDS them 
to go to school right now.

And let me not forget to mention that we do still have a 
two and a half year old around the house all day.
I am by no means an empty nester during the days.

But, I've enjoyed them being at school for a few hours this past week!
I've enjoyed the alone time I get with Gavin after he gets 
home at lunch time.
I put Sawyer to bed and we get some time to sit together and play.

I'm thankful for what this year looks like!
God knew exactly what I needed!
Now, if I can just get the morning schedule down so things are
a bit more peaceful!




Part of school starting...a trip to the dentist!! 



They did awesome! And got a Sonic treat as a reward!
Brave boys!

How has your first week of school been???!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My favorite little spots

I love reading blogs...my husband looked at my Google Reader 
the other day and was 
amazed by how many blogs I subscribe to! HA!
I like mostly blogs with lots of pictures, something I can read quickly...
so, my hope is that my own blog will be a good mix of
"wordy" and "easy to skim through."

This is a skimmer post...

I spend a lot of time in my home, A LOT!
It's so important that when I come home or simply walk into a room 
that I feel happy there and at rest.
I so want my home to be a place of color and life and happiness.

So, with that said, these are some pics of my
favorite little spots around the house!
It's constantly evolving, but I love our little blue house...
I'm so very thankful for it!


The spot by the stairs. It's been a recent little project.
All of it is thrifted or flea market finds. The table will get painted eventually,
but it was $15 at Goodwill and is a perfect fit.
I'm in love with Megan's printable at Contented Sparrow, perfect for
coming into fall!



My friend Shelby painted this thrift store owl hot pink,
I love it!!
And an Anthro candle always makes a spot better, right?!
(Thanks again, Shelby!)



This picture has been passed down from my great-grandma.
It hung over my grandmother's bed as we were circled around her
in her final hours here on earth.
I think of her every time I look at it and it is so special to me!



I'm a sucker for cute buttons and this chair has lots of them
(and was a gift from my in-laws)!
You can see our little family Instagram wall in the background.



I have a thing for "O"s since our last name starts with it!
I also love these pretty nesting dolls my mom brought back from Russia...
some of my favorite little things.



Ahhhh....the porch.
We LOVE our porch. I recently moved a day bed onto the porch
and now we love it even more!
This is my spot in the mornings, especially since 
it's started to cool off!
It's a sad day when it gets too cold to venture out there.



This is a good spot!! Next to my "lovey" while he watches a movie.
He gets a little extra lovin' on since the older two are now in school every morning.



Did you know you can print off Instagram 4x4 photos at Walgreens??
I got 18 of them for $3 and got them in about an hour.
I love them randomly placed all over my chicken wire door that is
propped up in the living room.
I've got a thing for old doors...



A favorite sunny spot in the kitchen...I feel like a spend a good bit 
of my day in front of the sink! HA!


I'm so thankful for our little home!
It's such a place of rest and refuge for us.
God is so good to provide a place that brings joy to our souls.

With a little creativity and very little money and house
really can become
a home.


Happy Tuesday, friends!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Coming back to it...

I've left this little blog unattended to for quite some time! It has crossed my mind many times to grab my laptop and write something down...a thought, post a quick picture, or do a little update on our lives. But, to be honest, our lives have been in such transition these past few months that I didn't even know where to start.

So, I'll start here...and try to keep it simple.

Credit: Aaron Mason on Instagram
We have lived in Wheaton, IL for almost one year exactly and I am more certain then ever that this is exactly where we're supposed to be. It has not been an easy journey. We have struggled financially since we made the move last August. But, in the midst of that...we have felt more loved by the Father, by family, and by community then ever before. We have travelled this road together and have only concluded that God is good, the Church is the answer, and His timing is perfect.


We moved up here to simply obey what God called us to and to be a part of Antioch Community Church here in Wheaton. Little did we know that God would call forth the deeper dreams of our hearts...to serve Him in full-time ministry. In February, we were asked to come on staff at our church here. I can't even put into words what it means to me to have the honor of serving this amazing Church and amazing staff. We are truly living our dreams!



To see my husband come alive has been the greatest blessing of all. To see the gifts in him used to their fullest potential. To see others call out the gold that I have treasured in him always. It fulfills places in my own heart that I never knew were even there.

Women, are your husbands living their fullest life? Or are they simply going through the motions? 

When was the last time you saw his heart ablaze with something? I'm telling you...there is no greater joy then to see your man walk into the destiny God has for him. It's not always the easy road, sometimes it involves risk, but it is so wonderfully worth it.


Chris would say that this is my "soap box." I am unapologetically passionate about seeing the men of our world step into the true roles and gifting that have been placed upon them since the beginning of time. They are each uniquely marked by their Creator to live passionate lives full of purpose. To lead others, to lead wives, to lead children, to lead nations. When they are not tapping into this calling on their lives, when they simply "do life" out of compulsion and duty...we lose something. We ALL lose something. When a man is in the center of God's purpose for his life, no matter how challenging that calling might be...he will rise up. A man who seeks God, who leads well, who does not settle for the things of the world...he is to be treasured.

Chris,
Thank you for saying "yes" over and over again this past year. Thank you for leading us well. Thank you for not giving up on the "best" that God had for you. I have found no greater joy in my life then seeing you come alive this past year. To see the wrestling of your heart to fight for finding out what you are truly made for. To see you find clarity on your giftings and roles. It has not been an easy ride, but I would do it a hundred times over just to have come to this place with you. It was all so very worth it! You are going to change the world, my friend. You will disciple the nations. You will equip the future leaders of our movement. You are a father to many.

I'm honored to have followed you this far...and I look forward to the years of blazing trails with you ahead. 

Your faithful cheerleader,
Christie


There is no greater thing for a wife, then to walk with a man whom she trusts completely.

Because I would say....that a man who fears the Lord is also to be praised.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A boy's fears...

I so wish that my boys could live their young lives without knowing fear, but that's just not possible.

In these young years of their lives, I want them to learn that it's okay to be afraid. It's okay to experience fear...we are all afraid sometimes. Fear is not something to be ashamed of and it is not a sin. It does not mean that you "just don't have enough faith."

It just means you're human.

However, it's what we choose to do when we experience fear that determines out trust in God.

My boys experience fear now when they have nightmares, when they try climbing a little higher then they are comfortable with, when storms come, when they can't find me in a crowd...

I want to teach them now what to do when they are afraid, so that when they are grown men and their fears become larger...they are steadfast in who God is and who holds them close. Because they will experience fear...God may even call them to do something that makes them afraid. But, they will know that they can trust Him...that they are never alone...that their fear can become something powerful if given to their Jesus.

When we were in Texas this past week, there were numerous tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where we were. The sirens started wailing and the weather reporters told us to take shelter until the storm passed.


Micah was afraid. He cried. He wanted Daddy to hold him.

I wasn't afraid. I knew the storm would likely pass over us and that even if we were hit, we were in a strong and safe place. But, he couldn't rationalize his fear away like I could. He felt it so strongly and it was all consuming.

My natural reaction to this is to explain his fear away. But, as I look back...what he needed was to be held by a Father. To be comforted, to be loved, to feel like he was protected. He had no control in that moment, but he knew where to go when he was afraid, into his Daddy's arms.

What are you afraid of? Where do you go to "explain away" your fears? They will never be resolved until you take them to Jesus. Until you crawl into His arms and let Him hold you close. Until you hear Him whisper his comfort and truth into your quickly beating heart.

Come to Jesus with your fears. 

I want to be a mom that leads my kids to Jesus when they are afraid. And I want to comfort them like Jesus would when they are scared. I also want to show them my own fears and how I take those to my Daddy as well. To be vulnerable with them and let them see the courage that the Spirit of God brings us even when we feel like we're facing the impossible.

My boys are strong and courageous. They will face their fears, not with prideful boasting, but in humble obedience to the One who makes all their paths straight.



He's already doing a work in Micah. The child who is too scared to ride his bike without training wheels rode a horse on our trip to Texas!! HA! Thank You, Jesus, for a son who is learning to face his fears and find strength from You!

One Day Without Shoes...

Today is the annual
"One Day Without Shoes" project day!

Did you know about this?

It's to raise awareness for the millions of people
around the world who live every day without shoes.
Children who walk barefoot in landfills, kids that 
can't go to school because shoes are required,
people who get terrible diseases from things
like hook worms.

We can help! 
Buy a pair of TOMS and give the gift of shoes!




Have you seen these? Soooo cute...I want a pair so bad!



I have to admit...I did wear my shoes this morning
to the gym. (tsk tsk)

But, I'm spend the rest of the day like this...


Watch this video to hear more...