Wazzup Around House of Horne?

It’s Springtime! Flowers, delicious weather, the wrapping up of another school year, and all that goes with that. Here is some of what we’ve been up to….

*Painting many, many shelves to finish up the apparently months-long project to try to clean out and freshen up those bedrooms closets.

*Transforming my dining room from a storage facility into a place for eating once again! From this…

To this is progress, yes?

Alright, well if I’m gonna keep it real, I need to step back a little so my readers can see the edges of the room.

So yes, there are still a few stray suitcases and window treatments for which I have not yet found “hiding places”! But I am so thankful for progress!

*Celebrating the end of volleyball and soccer season, A Chik-Fil-A cow sighting, and the start of baseball! I like how the Cow almost looks as if he is sporting a Covenant Jersey too!

*Working on our yoga – I have never seen Jonathan sit so still for so long in over nine years of living with him. Thinking that Wii Fit was a smart purchase, Honey!

*Enjoying Mother’s Day food, fun, and family at Texas De Brazil.

*Neighborhood fox hunts: a momma and her cubs have taken up residence two doors down under our neighbors’ storage shed. We have been rewarded for our diligence by a terrific front row seat to a show of the two cubs wrestling and playing in the grass at dusk while Momma stands guard nearby. Until my Techie Dude uploads the video in a way I can display here, you will have to take my word for it though. And instead enjoy this rather fuzzy shot of two of our resident foxes.

*Summer buzz cuts. This year is significant, as it is Josiah’s first ever “buzz”. Which, he informs us all, is “so much better than a normal haircut”. In case you didn’t know.

*Soaking up a little Grammy-time before she heads back to Savannah. Her Dad, Jay’s Grandpa, has had a very hard time of it these last months…Grammy Ruth will be spending another three weeks helping her sister care for him. We miss her but are thankful she can be there. If you think of it, Ruth, Judy and Gpa John can all use your prayers.

*Fruit loops in my coffee this morning: again, you’re going to have to trust me, and just visualize this one. For whatever reason, one of my little darlings figured my morning drug, er drink would taste even better with this treat added.

Now that I think of it, “Fruit Loops in My Coffee” sounds like a perfect name for a Mommy Blog…Hmmmm…maybe we should contemplate a name change. Whadya think, Techie Dude?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially to my own wonderful mother whom I love dearly, and to the bestest mother-in-law any girl ever had!

I have to share an article that ran in today’s Dallas Morning News about one of our friends, who is not only an incredible mom but an amazing woman of faith that we look up to and are so blessed by. Her story is beautiful and touching and inspiring (think Blindside without the wealth, or the upscale suburbs, and with double the kids! )

It is absolutely irrelevant to this post, but interesting to note that had I moved to Texas my senior year with my family to finish out my twelfth grade year, Melissa and I would have been in the same graduating high school class just a few (and I do mean a very few) short years ago. I didn’t have the privilege of attending high school with her after all, but am so thankful that God saw fit to cross our paths here in Dallas.

Her blog (linked to the right) is one of our absolute faves, and if you have never visited, I invite you to check it out.

Happy Mother’s Day, MaMelissa!

Expecting

Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.

I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.

In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.

It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.

It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) “Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”

Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.

We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.

We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.

Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.

So for the time being, we are expecting.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12

Story of a Dog…

Once upon a time there was a little yellow labrador retriever named Dixie. She was bought by a young man who wanted a cute little puppy to love, and at first he adored her. She was tiny and adorable in that rolly poly way that all puppies are, and they had great times together. But soon the young man had to leave for college and he left Dixie behind at his parents’ home where the young dog was kept outside all day long. She got into mischief, became a barker, and grew into an unwieldy seven month old puppy, who was more wild than cute. (Although definitely still pretty cute.)

In desperation, the man’s parents called Lone Star Labs, a local rescue organization whose mission is to care for and rehome lost, abandoned, or unwanted labrador retrievers.  Lone Star saw potential in little Dixie, and they had almost immediate interest in her from a family who had four kids and wanted a lab puppy to call their own. But the family couldn’t take her immediately due to some personal conflicts, so Lone Star turned to one of their foster families to take her in for a long weekend until she could go to her permanent home.  You may remember this post chronicling her arrival at the Hornes’. Miss Dixie spent a nice April weekend enjoying the hospitality offered to her at House of Horne.

Early the next week Dixie went to meet her new family….it should have been a beautiful, happy moment for everyone, but it wasn’t. Evidently Dixie, in her puppy exuberance, jumped on several of the children, and the mother decided almost immediately that there was no way they could take this wild young thing into their home. Miss Dixie had to go back to her foster family, who were only too glad to see her, and welcomed her back with open paws.

For the next several weeks, the little golden puppy charmed her foster family, who admittedly fell in love with her fairly quickly. During Dixie’s prolonged second stay, the lady of the house was nuts enough to take on yet another adorable puppy for a couple of weeks who needed a place to lay her head until she found her forever family. This puppy was younger, and the lady of the house was forced to get up in the wee hours of the night to let her outside to “do her business”, but she didn’t mind. Well, at least not too much…how could you resist this little face?

I am happy to say that today sweet Lulu puppy continues to enjoy a blissful existence at the home of some dear church friends of ours with five children, and a lot of love to give.

By middle of May, the family decided Dixie was a keeper; they changed her name to Lucy, and happily settled into life with the exuberant puppy whom everyone agreed was a perfect fit for their family.

And she was:

She played frisbee with her favorite boy as often as he’d let her.

She lay beside the baby of the family when he was sick:

She happily snuggled whomever had a hug to give:

And life was good.

In October, when the Daddy of the family found himself out of work after his startup company failed in the infamous economic downturn of 2008, Lucy was there. She was a compassionate friend, and became his shadow day in and day out. She lay beside him at his desk while he searched for jobs. She ran to catch the frisbee again and again when he needed some fresh air, and a break from the long drawn-out search. She snuggled next to him in his leather chair while he drank his beer in the evening, and was just a wonderful, if a bit hyperactive canine companion.

And then, in August of 2009, the Daddy of the family returned to work.  His new job was far away, too far to enable him to spend many long evenings throwing the frisbee for Lucy. She began to miss her “favorite boy” who had been home and personally available to her each and every day for ten long months. Instead now, the children in the family, who were home most days, took breaks in between their studies to play ball with her, romp in the yard alongside her, or play a fierce game of tug of war. The mommy lavished what affection she could upon the golden yellow doggie, and even learned to throw a decent frisbee for Lucy to retrieve. And yet, Lucy remained unhappy without the man of the house around to personally attend to her.

How did the people of the house know that the doggie was unhappy? Well, because she told them so in no uncertain terms: by regularly doing her potty business inside the house instead of outside as the Good Lord intended for doggies to do. (And as Lucy herself had done very proficiently for over 15 months since joining the Horne Household.) This was a messy state of affairs. I am sparing you the gory details, but suffice to say it is not fun to deal with doggie mess on bedroom carpet again and again and again.

After three months of Lucy continuing to eliminate inside the house, the family was sober. They loved Lucy, but couldn’t seem to help her shake her nasty new habits, no matter how they tried. They contacted their friend*** at Lone Star who confirmed their suspicion that Lucy wasn’t adjusting to her boy being gone during the day at his new job, offered some suggestions to try to help, and asked them to please check in again soon to keep them posted on Lucy’s progress.

And things continued in the same way. After six months of efforts and no change in Lucy’s behavior, the Lone Star contact suggested something new. She remembered Lucy’s prowess with the frisbee, and wondered if Lucy was just as enthusiastic with a ball. The family assured her that yes, she was, and the wonderful contact suggested that perhaps Miss Lucy needed a job to keep her busy. She told the Hornes all about the GAP: (which stands for Gifted Animal Placement) a program which trains dogs who have unusually high drive to focus and retrieve, to use these skills in a variety of jobs, many of them assisting with local police and law enforcement.  Most dogs which succeed as GAP animals are so intensely focused that they often struggle to live a quiet life as an ordinary, albeit adored family pet.

In February, Lucy had her first GAP evaluation test: she passed with flying colors. The dog was, as they like to say in the GAP world, “ball-obsessed“! The Lone Star representative said in all her years working in dog rescue that she had only ever seen one other lab with skills like Lucy, and that she was truly a special and talented doggie. Armed with this knowledge, the Lone Star folks began searching for an actual job opening for the talented Lucy. Meanwhile, Lucy’s family, who loved her dearly, and hated the notion of her leaving, but didn’t know what else to do, began praying for the dog people to find the perfect spot for their sweet Lucy. The children prayed especially hard, though they always added afterward that they hated the idea of having to say goodbye to their beloved lab.

In April, the call came: a trainer from Austin would be in town over Easter weekend to run all prescreened GAP dogs through her training evaluation. She was specifically looking for dogs who could be trained in drug and peanut detection. This was Lucy’s big chance! Her family got her rested up for her big day, and they asked their family and closest friends to please pray extra hard that she would sail through the test like a champ.

And she did! (Thanks go out to all who prayed!) Lucy was one of the special dogs chosen by Austin trainer Sharon Perry to enter the program as a drug detection dog trainee. Even now, Lucy is a few weeks into her very important training to learn to be a police dog! Once she has completed her training with Sharon, she will be matched with a “human police officer” and as a team they will spend their days sniffing out narcotics in places like schools, and airports. Miss Lucy will be doing her part to take a bite out of crime!  Of course, Lucy won’t know that. From her point of view, she will only know that someone is paid good money to play with her all. day. long. One can safely believe that she will be as happy as a dog can be with her newfound job.

This is all somewhat bittersweet for the family who raised her from puppyhood to adulthood, and bonded with her in the process. There is something beautiful about the creatures God made being able to work at a vocation which will truly help protect people, and drug detection dogs do just that. So the Hornes are proud of their Lucy and the work she will do to make the world a better place.

And yet, there is a hole in the Horne household since Lucy has gone. For all her hyper antics, and naughty behavior in the house, Lucy was a loving dog, and the family had no doubts as to her affection for them. The boys of the house  have felt her absence most keenly. Lucy slept in their room and “guarded” them at night, and they miss her. Now in the evenings, when they pray and thank God for finding Lucy such a good “job”, the boys shed a tear or two even as they utter their thankfulness. Precious kids. And in addition to thanking God…they have now added a new request to their evening prayers: that God will bring them a new puppy someday to sleep in their room and be their friend.

* **We received very sad news early this week that our Lone Star contact lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. He was only 43 years old, and leaves behind not just his wife, but their two young children. If you think to pray for God’s comfort for this family, I know they are desperately in need of it.

Our Newest Nephew!

Two weeks ago today, our family was blessed with the fantastic addition of Jacob Henry, firstborn little peanut to our dear Auntie Sandra and wonderful Uncle Keith.

Jacob kept us in suspense last week for a long time, as poor Sandra labored for a full (and very unmedicated) 40 hours before the doctor concluded that the only way this little boy was going to get out was via the surgical route. Seems that Jacob decided at the last minute to flip himself around, thereby introducing a bit of a “wrinkle” into the original labor plans. Despite such a long and arduous ordeal, my sister looked serene and lovely when we dropped in at the hospital for our first visit:

How thankful we all are for the miracle of modern medicine, which God used to bring the newest member of the family into this world whole and healthy and absolutely beautiful!!  Since Jacob lives so nearby we have had the opportunity to visit aplenty with him and his parents, and we are so glad to have a new baby to love on!

Being 11 years old, and the big sister to three younger boys apparently makes you pretty much an expert where babies are concerned. Abigail had lots of advice to share with her auntie and uncle! Here she is with Jacob: the oldest cousin with the (for now) youngest cousin:

Little Josiah was too interested in Baby Jacob’s long feet to spend much time giving advice. He is doing his best to learn to be sweet and gentle with his baby cousin.

Welcome to the world, little Jacob. We are so thankful you are here!

Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop

Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head of late.

I’m tired most of the time and, for now, have decided that’s okay. I’m not planning to shake my fist at the world and yell “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, but I do find myself ever more content with a full life that leaves me wondering if I’ll have the energy to make it through tomorrow.

I love coffee, and think it is just amazing that my wife takes the time to make it for us each day. There’s a real joy in service offered day in and day out without the burden of expectation, and I do strive to feel a surprised gratefulness each and every day that lovely aroma embraces me in the morning.

For a time, I find myself working too much, driving a commute I swore I would never have, and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, yet I feel like I’m enjoying both my work and family more than ever. My guess is that after months of unemployment, there is a certainty, an emancipating clarity, of what I need to do, and that helps the doing of it not be a burden.

There is an upside to commutes, particularly with modern gadgets. I recently finished a large lecture series on the Byzantine Empire, and have now begun a much larger series on the Roman Empire, all freely available as podcasts. By the way, though the Byzantines have more or less been trod upon in our histories in the west, particularly since the publication of Edward Gibbon’s work around the time our nation was born, their influence on the course of history in the west cannot be overstated (that’s an overstatement… but you get the point). Here’s a quote from the podcast author to whet your appetite:

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

Chronic pain is a real bummer, and very different than pain (minus the chronic part). After all my major reconstructive foot surgeries a decade ago, not to mention the spinal fusion of my childhood, I’m in pain most of the time. And being unable to run, jump, etc. is a real drag on my competitive spirit. I’m missing out on huge chunks of the good life, both for myself, and my kids. Most days, that hurts worse than my feet.

I seem to experience God’s grace, his kindness to me, more and more as a calmness in the face of what is hard, or embittering, or intensely frustrating. Chronic pain is… it just sort of fades to the background. I can’t play soccer with my kids… like that’s my real failing as a dad, versus the anger I put on display, or the fights I start with their mom. I don’t think I’m able to struggle for contentment, yet God in his goodness seems to give me more and more each day.

I’m not sure I want the good life anymore. There’s one pernicious flavor of the good life that is defined in terms of what you don’t have. The good life is keeping up with your neighbors. I’m not talking about that one. I still hunger for that one as much as anyone, in spite of my hatred of it. I mean a neat, orderly, successful life. I’ve always enjoyed quoting Proverbs 14:4, particularly to tired mothers of young children. I was content when we had three children, and let me tell you, our fourth does not contribute to neatness and orderliness. Yet life without Josiah… no thanks.

I’ve grown weary of spiritualizing issues of the heart that sure sound like they should involve actions. Over and over God says things like:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here’s something strange. For months, I felt more and more burdened by such statements, and secretly concluded a few months back I wanted to consider adopting an orphan. I say secretly because I never spoke a word of it to Tricia, hoping the burden would pass with time. It didn’t, but I kept my mouth shut. Something about the Haiti earthquake forced me to speak of it to Tricia, and wouldn’t you know it, she had been experiencing the same burden for an even longer time.

We have no idea where this is going, but find ourselves preparing for a possible adoption. Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop to God’s story, and his story is all goodness and grace.

It’s Been More Than a Month Since I Posted…

Whew! What a whirlwind it’s been around here at House of Horne.

The kids and I arrived home earlier this week after two full weeks away. We stayed with first Jay’s folks, then my parents while work was being done in our home. Thanks to all our parents/grandparents for their hospitality to us!!

While we were gone, some wonderful new wood floors were laid in the three secondary bedrooms. We are SO thankful for these new floors, as we have waited for them for a long time. I’ll post more on that another day.

Ripping out carpet and installing new flooring meant that everything…and I do mean everything in these three bedrooms (including closets) had to be relocated to other areas of the house. Now, if you are a very neat, tidy, and organized person, perhaps the entire contents of three children’s bedrooms and closets can be nicely arranged in another part of your house while such work is going on without much disruption to your regular life. If you are like me, well…not so much.

A few weekends ago we had some very kind siblings help us move and heft furniture and junk out of the rooms. Thanks, Guys for all your help and heavy lifting!

After all the furniture was situated in other parts of the house, there was very little space left to “live in”. I wish I had thought to take some photos of the beds, desks, dressers, and bookshelves all piled up in the middle of the living room. Wow, it was quite something to behold.  Something of a mess!

When we returned home on Monday we were greeted with beautiful new floors in the bedrooms. But the view upon stepping into our front entry wasn’t quite as inviting:

And our dining room has definitely looked more gracious than it did that day:

In the front living area, clothes from all our kids’ closets adorned a couch

and various miscellaneous items graced our boys’ dresser which we stuck in the middle of the little room.

After three evenings of hard work, the beds and desks are all back in the bedrooms. Curtains have been washed and rehung, all the bed skirts and quilts and stuffed animals, etc have been laundered (because you might as well do your spring cleaning while everything else is in such a mess, right?) All in all, the larger living area is much more “live”-able!! (just believe me when I tell you that this is a vast improvement over what it looked like on Monday evening.)

The other thing that greeted us upon returning home was our pediatrician’s diagnosis that all four of our children have strep throat.  I am so sorry for their pain, but I am viewing this bit of news as a providence. Their illness has meant that they have little energy for much more than sitting around in their jammies watching television and taking naps. They don’t even want to eat much at all, poor things. Though they do tell me that they think their medicine is most tasty!

So, schoolwork and all that goes along with that, plus our regular slate of extracurricular activities were taken off my plate for most of this week. This allowed me to focus on trying to get our house returned to some semblance of normal…and of course add the job of painting all three of those closets which are still empty save some pretty new floors. I tackled one yesterday, and will work on the other two in a little bit here. Here is a peek into the first one….

When I return (which hopefully will not be another full month from now) I hope to have before and after photos of the bedrooms to show you. For now though, I must jet up to the Sherwin Williams store, and grab a bit more “Baize Green” to do some touch-up in that closet!

Please Give it up For….

Dear Readers,

I have not had a ton of time to blog lately. And so much of what I sit down to write about feels trite and shallow in the face of recent world events. But yesterday I read a wonderful bloggy entry by my friend Missy, and I just had to share it with you….it spoke to my heart, and is right in line with much of what we are discussing as we work through A Quest For More by Paul Trippe.  (Which, if you have not read it, is fabulous and I highly recommend it!)

For some background, Missy and her husband Walker have four young kiddos and are in the process of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia.

I hope you are as blessed by Missy’s thoughts as Jay and I were.  For those of you who do not like hot links embedded in text, click

HERE

to read her post entitled, “I Don’t Want My Children to be Happy!”

How We Rock it on Valentines’ Day at House of Horne

Last year we brought you what we think was the first annual installment of the Horne homemade heart-shaped pizzas for Valentines’ Day. It was so much fun that we had to repeat it this year.  This is a really fun way for the whole family to get into meal prep, no matter your kids’ ages. And so I bring you “How to wear your heart on your pizza”….

I put our favorite bread machine pizza dough recipe into the bread maker right before we left for (and were late for!) church.  For Valentines’ Day, we like to make personal pan pizzas. After separating the dough into six sections, we had this:

Get your toppings of choice ready. We like tomato sauce but have used alfredo in the past too. Other favorites are: fresh garlic, pepperoni, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, fresh chopped basil, and onions/peppers.

We start with a greased cookie sheet. Shape your dough into whatever form you like. It helps if you have really cute, chubby fingers for this step.

Some of us are very serious about shaping the dough.

All done! Before adding anything to our crust, we always brush a thin layer of olive oil onto our pizza. It adds such great flavor.

Let your brother add sauce to cover the surface of his pizza.  Wait patiently, this process can take awhile.

Sisters take even longer with their sauce.

Mustn’t forget the cheese! You can never have too much of this:

It’s time for toppings! Grab whatever you like. If you’re a kid, you’ll want to start with some uber-healthy pepperoni!

Sisters really like it when you make helpful suggestions for how they can top their pizza most effectively. Our most creative topping today was basil eyebrows for the face of Jonathan’s pizza.

Right before they went into the oven, our six pizzas looked like this:

While you’re waiting for your delicious pizzas to finish cooking in the oven, pour yourself a nice glass of red wine, and pose for a few gratuitous Valentines Day pictures!

It’s time to eat! Look what we made!

Happy Valentines Day, Everyone!