Wintry Whisperings

We’ve been temporarily displaced due to our heater being useless during a few cold winter nights. We’ve found our happy refuge among good friends. And it’s in these quiet moments that God is teaching my soul how flexible we really are as a family. We’ve been sleeping on the floor. Not a mattress, dear ones, the floor with a blanket buffer. And honestly, we’re all just so thankful for a warm house and wonderfully warm friends. The kids have slept great and God has been opening my eyes to the beauty of flexibility that He has been growing in our hearts and in our lives. It’s this flexibility that He is nurturing for His Kingdom. And I’m just so thankful to even be a tool. 

So as we roll over, a little achy in moments for us adult people, my heart has been praying for the thousands upon thousands around the world that find themselves sleeping on the floor every night. And yet they still raise their arms in thankfulness and praise to Jehovah Jira- God, our Provider.

 I don’t know if we’ll always have a bed to sleep on in this world, but what I do know is that our Lord has blessed us BEYOND measure no matter where we lay our heads. And His provision will ALWAYS be more than enough for our souls.



Thank you, Jesus, for Your abundant provision. 

- Stay warm, dear ones.

Get Yourselves Organized Down There!

A Wallace and Gromit quote favorite. And while it is in a ridiculous scene, Wallace sure does have a point.

I’ve taken the opportunity for this past week during our Christmas break to reorganize our homeschool world. We had fallen into a rut in school and I wanted to freshen things up and be more intentional in some of our studies and my planning.

I’m not sure if any of you have faced this, but I’ve found that this year we have hit the “no, we can’t do that” phase of homeschooling. Let me explain. Now that Rachael is biting off more substantial curriculum in first grade and there are more children than I have hands, our schedule can no longer be flexed around play dates, errands and field trips. Oh don’t get me wrong, we still have flexibility, but I’ve found the reality of a set schedule as being both grounding and helpful in our pursuit of well-balanced education. I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year in homeschooling and mommying. I’m not as stressed as I’ve been in the past and yet, in many way more stressed in the larger workload. So it was time to focus in on some areas of stress in our daily world and clean them up.

Since I’m a visual person, I made a glorified wall-mounted filer from my existing material stash (most of which is donated from my Mother’s overflow – thanks, Mom). It took me a day and a half, but I busted out a functional pocket organizer to display our core subjects and a modified “workbox” idea for our family. What I’ve discovered is that I need more advanced planning than the traditional workbox system. I need to see and stock for more than the system’s “one day at a time” method, hence my addition of subjects into the workbox idea. I also really enjoy collaborative learning amongst ages, so it’s helpful to have a subject heading for those subjects I group teach. It’s a blessing to do things together as a family from my first grader all the way on down to Ms. Six Months. I really love seeing them all together, enjoying life.

But beyond the sheer functionality of the space, I have found myself grasping a greater organization of our purpose. Beyond the Math manipulative and the workbook pages, I have revamped our day, keeping what has worked and discarding the rest.

So cheers to new beginnings. Cheers to greater intentionality in school, chores and play. Cheers to more laughter during homeschool and more light in all our eyes. And cheers to a six year old, four year old, two year old and six month old learning, growing and sharing, that Christ would be realized in our home and overflowed outside.

I’m excited. And I’m ready. This has been and will continue to be a GREAT school year. =)

Beyond Disney World

I read an article this morning during the routine 6am nursing session. The author spoke of casting off the pressures that pinterest, blogs and facebook posts put on being the over-the-top parent to your children. The need to have the most creative, perfect vacation or birthday party or day of homeschool for that matter is ridiculous. It becomes about our status and quite honestly, our pride.

But I found it sad that the author failed to remember times when her parents played with her and her siblings. I get that family dynamics require parents to work from home at times. I get that family dynamics sometimes require both parents to work. I get that the house doesn’t clean itself and dinner doesn’t cook itself. But I still remember my “picking up an extra shift” Daddy staging pillow fights with us. I still remember my “returning to school to get a better job” Mommy baking cookies with us, even inviting in the neighbor kids to share in the flour mixing. Sure there was a the balance of my sister and I walking home from school together and coming to a quiet house where enjoy a premade snack of carrot sticks from the fridge or celery with peanut butter that Mom made before she went to work. And then we’d proceed to entertain ourselves for an hour or so until Mom got off work.

It was a balance. We still went to the children’s museum, climbing the rock climbing wall alongside of Daddy and racing Mom in the timed sprint display. And I remember self-entertaining on Summer days or during Mom’s study sessions.

I strive to be a parent of equal balance. Yes, I expect my little girls to play independently at times. Their imaginative delight should not be tied to me entertaining them. But I miss so much if I don’t don a princess crown regularly, or instigate a pool noodle sword fight. I miss too much if I don’t wrestle them in a game of tickle fight until our sides ache from laughter at our floor frizzed hair. I miss far too much if I don’t use the curb as a balance beam or dance unashamedly to a Disney song with a twirling ribbon.

What do I miss? I miss expressing my value in doing life with them. That their hearts matter. Right where they are. In whatever little imaginative phase they choose to live in in that moment.

I’m not saying this author’s Mom didn’t love her. HA! Not saying that at all. I’m just saying that in the swing back from our culture’s need to make Motherhood about a Mother’s status and pride, don’t forget to dabble in your children’s play regularly. No don’t buy their love with vacations and regular showerings of toys until they have so much stuff that you can’t even play with it all. Materialism creeps in so quickly.

But don’t miss out on the opportunity to just sit and read together and play together. Because just like I tell my little ladies, “we’re the only family we’ve got. So let’s do life together.”

At the end of the day, I want more than the title of Mother, Provider or Caregiver. And it has nothing to do with me. I want to leave a legacy in their hearts that we walked through their childhood together because their worlds mattered so deeply to me that it was worth the sacrifice to make them my dreams.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are such a blessing.

Merry Christmas

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Merry CHRISTmas to you and to yours.

May this new year bring the Lord more glory than last year

in all our hearts, minds and souls.

And thank you to the readers who’ve stuck with me

through many months of quiet as we settled into our new.

It’s a blessing to my heart to share in our lives.

I hope that it is as much of an encouragement to your heart as it is to mine.

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Love,

our little slice of wonderful.

Dough Day

The baking day was a success. We made two different variations of a cool-whip cookies, strawberry bread and granola from scratch. We invited over a dear friend, Heather, and her toddler son to join in our day. The kids enjoyed stirring and pouring and making a royal mess with complete delight. How else are they going to learn? And who can judge them? I’m a messy cook too.

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In the naptime quiet, I baked some strawberry breads and made some more cookie batters. Then Heather returned, exchanging her toddler son for her teenaged daughter, to finish up our work. We froze the cookie dough in individual family servings (which for us is 6 cookies) between parchment paper and wax paper so that come cookie baking time we could simply peal the wax paper off and throw the parchment paper and cookies onto a tray for quick baking.

We also froze away some pumpkin bread batters for another winter day treat.

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In all it was a fun baking morning/afternoon where everyone could help at their initiative and talk/play with friends. Definitely a repeat kind of day!

Project Satisfaction: The Dining Room Table

She has a gimp leg bandaged in metal bandages. I remember sliding her over, the beastly thing. She’s sure solid wood that’s for sure! And then I looked down at the crack. Her leg was splintering off. Hmmm, pretty sure that’s a problem. I thought. I remember Daddy coming to the rescue one time when they were in town. A trip down to the hardware store, a few L brackets, wood glue, and some piping fasteners later and she was strong again. Not gorgeous. Not increased in monetary delight. But back to being fully functional.

She has bubbles in her polyurethane finish. And usually some playdough in her cracks. Sometimes I’ll sit there with a butter knife and clean out the sand and glitter from kid projects. She has a little piece of magnet superglued to one area. Oops. I’ve got to scrape that off some day.

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Her chairs are mismatched. I love how it’s a combination of the old and the new. I remember those chairs with the knobs from our first apartment together. Just you and me, Love. And Cheddar. My fat orange and white baby. Remember how the chairs were nice wood and the table …not so much? Wasn’t it funny how big that four seater table felt in our one bedroom apartment? And we had such high hopes of sliding that extension in to bust out a whopping six chairs.

Now we have ten. And we fill six of them. And the four empty remind us to invite someone over for dinner regularly. The empty ones remind us to keep our table open for family, widows, and orphans coming through the foster system. It reminds us to be on the lookout for those needing a friend. Even just for a season. Someone to share a meal with. To remind them of their value. It reminds us to be ready. And open.

I love how there’s those big captain’s chairs for the ends. Only one is replaced by the littlest’s highchair booster on a regular chair. That highchair doesn’t really fit up as close as I ever want it to fit. Maybe it’s that the table sags low. Maybe it’s that extra 1 by 4 that hangs under the edges of the table on the ends. Still not sure why that’s there. Or maybe it’s just that the chairs are too tall. But I love that she can sit there with us. No one is too small to be a part of the family meal. Even when you can’t quite hold your head up.

She has some marks on her. Most are washable. Straying markers imagining artwork. The occasional crayon jetting off the Math mazes. The occasional pencil scratches or pen mark from immature overly-concentrated penmanship of beginning letters and numbers. Homeschooling evidence gives her such character. And love.

Sometimes there are grease spots from time-out foreheads. Spilled milk still in her crevasses from toddlers learning from “big girl cups”. Worn sections on her chairs where this Mommy sat to nurse her baby while balancing eating lunch or correcting a pattern worksheet… or both. Chair rungs reglued in from rocked chairs while learning to read. Motion can help so much when the brain is focusing so, so hard. Or sometimes it’s just hard to sit there and wait. And wait. And wait to be dismissed from dinner. It can feel like an eternity those five minutes! Just ask the toddler with an empty bowl of ice cream and a full belly. Not everyone is served at the same time. Patience training wears on her chairs.And oh those hard chairs. They give no support to the tired bones. Fulfilling their purpose of keeping a tired Mommy awake after long nights of broken sleep because the open Bible is more important than napping so many times.

It feels like a lifetime of memories is stored up in that loved piece of wood.

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Someday I’d like to refinish it. I’d like to wash away the old stain. Maybe sand some of the needed places. And sit with my older girls and restain our beloved table. Teach them the value of hard work. And the delight of the end project while we recall old memories at that very table.

She’s simple. A wonderful hand-me-down to us. A hodgepodge of two tables’ worth of chairs. Some faded stains. Some scratches and scuffs. One gimp leg.

But she’s wonderful. And she’s treasured. Even with those ridiculously heavy chairs that tend to smash preschooler toes when used as prep chef stepstools. And those crevasse that hoard all things sticky, glittery and grainy, refusing to release them from her clutches.

She’s still wonderful.

And we are thankful, grateful and blessed.

God is so good to us.

Let Wisdom Take Hold

Maybe I’m just getting older. In age and in the faith. Priorities are changing in my heart. Simple is taking hold. Home has more. Not more requirements, but more opportunities. The opportunity to just sit and read the Chronicles of Narnia into the quiet of sponge block play at my feet. To just sit with the girls and find every opportunity I can to complement their intentionality in their school work. “That O looks wonderful, Abi.” “What a beautifully curved eight, Rachael. Your eights have gotten so nice.” Just to see that smirk of pride. Just to see that confidence flair in the twinkle of their eyes. To crawl like kitties down the hallway with my toddler en route to her naptime bed. Just because she squeals when I climb into her converted crib and pretend to circle around to nap too. To just sit and see how many times I can get the tiniest to smile. Studying those inquisitive eyes. Or play peek-a-boo while she wiggles in the Johnny Jumper to the hum of the washing machine. Undistracted. Not multitasking. But fully present.

I’ve been convicted to put down my phone lately. It now lives in my Monica coffee cup in the same place on the counter. I wasn’t always on it for a bad reason. There was Christmas shopping and connecting to distant family and friends. But one day I looked up and saw their eyes. I had lost track of how long I’d been on the phone. Those eyes that said, “We miss you.” God spoke to me through those eyes. The very technology that was connecting me to others left me disconnected from those standing before me.

I went to the grocery store tonight by myself. The girls were quietly in their beds. The toddler long gone to dreamland. Matt was settling in to play a computer game against the silence of the rain falling outside. Tomorrow’s a baking day with a dear friend and her sweet little guy. A day full of sticky fingers, flour and play. Counting out cup-fulls of ingredients that I’m sure will find spills on the dining room carpet as four little ones anxiously await their prep chef turn. So I found myself wandering the aisles of our closest grocery and thinking: What are my priorities? What investment legacies will I leave from this upcoming week?

Pumpkin puree in hand, I thought of my children and their delight at helping. I thought of my friend and how much I desire to be an encourager and supporter in her life. It’s simple really. It’s the careful selecting of fruitful ingredients for the Kingdom work.

God has been molding me. Shaping me. Poking and prodding hurtful sores I’ve allowed to take hold in my life. He’s healing me into a new form of healthy. A stronger jaw set on hard work and quietness. He has caught my attention with a whisper in a crowded room of distraction. A whisper that penetrates to the depths of my soul. “Awake,” it stirs the creation trapped behind excuses and selfishness. What do I deserve, really? Is not all that I need right before me? It’s an awakening that stirs my heart to work. An outpouring of worship played through the intentionality of my soul. Live quietly. Work hard unto the Lord.

And in crawls cloth diapering back to the mix. Funny how my hands need hard work to keep my mind focused. And while I’m working the Word slips back into my mind, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Prov 10:4) And suddenly I realize we’re not just talking about financial prosperity here.

Suddenly the laundry becomes more manageable and I am able to “find time” to help with the dishes and do other house chores. As the burdens of housework feel lighter so does my heart. And my children begin memorizing more worship songs as they sing along to my cleaning soundtracks. I become interruptible to teach lessons that live in a world far deeper than the homeschooling file cabinet.

You know, hard work looks different for all of us. And I’ve found that having many children does not mean you work hard. It’s easy to have many children and be discontented. And lazy. And selfish. It’s easy to start thinking you deserve things. And time. And even acknowledgement. It’s easy to get lost in the world of “what can make my life easier” as if I really have it hard here in America with a roof over my head, and clean water, and food on the table and an encouraging family. As if it’s some hardship to get the choice of what to cook for dinner from the myriad of options. Even when we do have to go to the grocery store, our cupboards are still so full.

I dusted off their old clocks. Replaced the batteries. It’s time for our sponsor kids to be brought back to the dinner table conversations again. It’s time to look at their pictures in the compilation binder or artwork and contacts over the years. Put our hands on their handprints in their yearly health reports. It’s time to stop pretending that sending them a check is enough to teach my children – and really my own heart- that we are blessed to give. We ARE changed by giving.

I don’t have to sleep through the night. I don’t have to have the best carseat. The name brand, new stroller. I don’t even need to read all the kid articles on how to raise thankful kids. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating food with preservatives. Or putting a paper diaper on my toddler at nighttime. Or having dust on my pictures. It’s all distractions. There are so many arguments and tunnels that take us away from shedding light on the real thing.

I need to live unto the Lord. And sometimes that looks like crooked pictures because I let the toddler help me dust. Sometimes that looks like a silenced cell phone because I am not reachable during homeschooling unless it’s an emergency. Because it can wait. I’m teaching value in my children by whom I give my full attention. Sometimes it looks like going to bed early, because waking up at sunrise helps me serve my Lord better and that trickles down into how I find contentment.

I will forever be changed by a story from my dear missionary friend. While serving our Lord in Namibia, Africa with her husband, she had the privilege of investing in a young girl’s life through her education center. As she got to know the little girl she learned that this girl only had one pair of socks and therefore she went home daily and washed them, scrubbing them with soap and a rock and hanging them to dry before going to bed. She then got up early to dress for school and walked the great distance to school. My sweet Theresa vocalized the same thing we would all think upon seeing that situation. Poor child, let’s get her a second pair of socks so she doesn’t have to work that hard. She’s already cooking and cleaning for her whole household alongside her mother and trying desperately to be diligent in her studies as well. And Theresa’s African helper spoke the wisdom of God when she said, “No, we must not give her another pair of socks, lest she become lazy.”

At first that truth didn’t make sense to me. Become lazy?! Doesn’t she deserve to become lazy? Hasn’t she worked two days’ worth of work in one single day? Doesn’t she deserve a carefree childhood? Doesn’t she deserve toys? And her favorite meals? And a bicycle for easier transportation? And… and… and…

And yet Theresa knew it in her heart, as I have learned in my own, through the Lord’s prompting: she was happy. The little girl was happy. Always smiling. Ever so thankful.

When my hands work at those cloth diapers, at that stained kitchen floor, at those scratched walls, I AM thankful. I AM happy. I am not thinking of what more I can add to my home to take away the work. I am not thinking of hiring a maid. And before I realize it I see some little hands grab a sponge beside me and wipe away scuffs on the walls. I see little hands sorting laundry. I see little feet running to grab a rag and “skate” on the kitchen floor. And their smiles. Oh, their beautiful smiles. That’s a joy I can’t buy with ease. That’s a lesson I can’t fabricate without sharing in the sore arms and backs. Life IS work. But oh how there can be JOY in the workload.

We’ve weeded down some of our things so we can take care of our toys, clothes, shoes, dishes, etc. without the workload overtaking us. And when we live more simply, it keeps us working hard. But that is what our souls need. For the harvest IS plentiful, so we need to train to be good laborers. To be ready. In heart. And soul. And mind.

Lord, please use this conditioning back, shoulders, arms and mind. For I am seeing the beauty of the workload. I am understanding more of the honor You receive in humble, simple and focused living. Help me to live a “tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2). Lord, I am learning to live as Your Word speaks of internal adornment being “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4). Lord, these aren’t mere suggestions, but they are words of great wisdom and refreshment for the soul. Help me to find a simple and quiet living of hard work and honest investment in my husband, children, friends, family, and Your work for me. Please, Lord, help me not to be lost in the distractions that so easily entangle my time and my thoughts. For dissatisfaction robs You of the glory and the honor that my joy in blessing attributes You. Please, Lord, help me to pave the way for more Christlikeness in this home that You have given me. May it outpour in encouragement of others’ homes. That more would know You, Lord, and give You the praise and honor You are beyond due.

  • To God be the glory.

Project Satisfaction: Intro

I enjoy Pinterest. Who doesn’t right? Where else can you be bombarded with 400 posts a day from complete strangers who have a similar interest in Type A organized craft rooms using only recyclables, underwater photography or even DIY personal hygiene? (Does that topic not scare anyone else out there?) I love looking at “never gonna happen” rooms in imaginary houses just as much as the next person. It reminds me of walking through the Ikea set-ups with my kiddos and imagining living in that exact home… all 500 square feet with my four kids. We enjoy laughing about taking rotations sleeping in the one kid bed and then go get our free Tuesday kid lunches. (Cha-ching!)

I have enjoyed Pinterest and its delightful ideas in homeschooling, housecleaning tips, organization and inspiration. I love being able to serve my family better with a new way of caring for what we already have. A new way of organizing, sorting and decluttering so we can better use all that we have been blessed with and release some of that blessing to others. And if you step foot in our home you’ll see the footprints of Pinterest around little corners and in my cabinets. Pinterest has really benefitted our lives in so many ways.

But there is a danger in Pinterest as well. No, not a stalker hazard signs; though it does seem a bit odd and borderline creepy that a complete stranger could design your dream home, know your whole history of favorite childhood memories, or know your exact child’s favorites without ever having met you. But that aside, the more pressing danger in Pinterest speaks to a far deeper level: Satisfaction.

Do we make changes because we’re unsatisfied with what we have or because it’s fun to have a refresher?

I’m guilty. I will admit it freely. I can easily be caught red-handedly rearranging the furniture when my husband is away on a trip. I get antsy. I like the new. The fresh. A changed perspective. Why do I make changes when Matt’s gone? Simply because I have more time on my hands in the evening. And he can almost expect whenever he’s gone, or sick, or at a conference, that at least one thing will be different when he returns. It’s fun to make improvements. But I must be careful not to let unsatisfaction drive those changes.

So I’m starting Project Satisfaction (insert: fanfare). I’m going to highlight things in my home that may not scream “You know you want one just like me,” but indeed are great blessings, some more hidden blessings than others, in our home. Nope, they’re not the antiques or the heirlooms. They’re not the expensives or the impressives for that matter. But there is great value in liking and even loving what you have. Because, dear friends, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will change your life: Gratitude turns what you have into more than enough.

– God is so good to us.

HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY, ABI!!!

Four Fantastic years ago this little nugget joined our family in the middle of our VBS (Vacation Bible School) week. On Tuesday I was walking the stairs to our third floor< sixth grade classroom and on Wednesday I was induced and we welcomed Abi to the world.

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Abi Grace! My goodness how the world would be a sad place without our crazy Abi.

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We adore you! You are so unpredictably fun. We never know when you’re going to photobomb a picture or cheese it up.

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You have this life and energy in you that is enviable. Oh and that smile…. it’s always been there… your utter abandonment to joy… with that twinkle in your eyes…

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You and your crazy hair (especially first thing in the morning and post-nap).

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You and your crazy delight.

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You and the randomly and hilariously crazy things you say with such a straight face. My goodness, I’ve added years to my life in laughter.  [Like this morning when you asked for breakfast to be “Cookie cereal and a tomato.” “A tomato?!” I responded and you said with the most straight face, “Yeah, I’ve never had that together before.”]

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And those expressions. I swear I’m seeing  a glimpse of your teenagehood trapped in your now four year old body. HA!

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Abi you are a hoot! You add such spice to life. You are our perfect middle.

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And YES, today FINALLY is your birthday. And YES, today we are FINALLY going to Chuck-E-Cheese (how dare we say ‘no’ when you have been harboring pictures you’ve drawn Chuck-E for weeks).

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So from your Mommy, Daddy, and the rest of your cohort we wish our crazy, hilarious, dramatic, comedian, rambunctious, irresistible, passionate, delightful, spunky Abi Grace the happiest Fourth Birthday EVER!

 

– Love you so!