A Look Back

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…from our home to yours.  What an eventful year it has been around our home! In February we accepted the referral for our new daughters and then brought them home in September (with many ups and downs in the process in between).  We just can’t say how many times the Lord answered prayers and moved mightily.  Adam spent two weeks in the DR Congo and I flew in at the end in order for us to bring them home together.  It was just an indescribable experience and we are both so glad we got to go and be there in their country and culture!  Adam absolutely fell in love with the country and its people and sometimes I think he is still there. :-) We officially adopted the girls here in the states just last week, so it is all official and we are done with the process.  It is such a good feeling after being in that transition mode for almost 2 years.

People ask, “So how is it going now with 5?”  And we have to say that, by God’s grace, it is going much better than we ever could have dreamed – in regards to meshing as a family, bonding and overall transition.  The Lord has been so kind!  The girls have just fit right in.  As far as noise, dirt, clutter, chaos, laundry, food consumption and just general craziness…well…that is off the chart.  Here is a little “before dinner” video that I snapped of them a couple of nights ago.  They can rock the house.  Ha!  But each one of them is precious and a delight and truly a blessing. We are so privileged and blessed to get to be a family together.

T turned 8 this year.  He is the storyteller of the pack and has risen to the task of being the oldest in the family.  He continues to be such a sweet little theologian and our black-and-white thinker.  He is just such a precious gift…and always keeps us laughing (usually unintentionally)!  M turned 6 and is our sensitive, intuitive little lady.  She is so compassionate and caring of others.  She is learning to be my big helper with household chores and with her little sisters.  She is the one most gifted with languages and has become the interpreter for the girls language and accents.  It is so hilarious and amazing how she can do it!  When asked what she wanted to learn more about in the coming year, she said, “Being a mom…and more about the parts of the body.”  Buzzy turned 5 this year and is our lover of “anything that goes”.  He has said several times that he can’t wait until he can watch his Uncle James work in his shop.  He loves to help, jump on the trampoline, and build cars and boats with his Legos.  He is my early riser and is often found down in the kitchen with me while others are still sleeping.  He desperately wants to learn to read like T and M, so we have been continuing to work on that.  Joy-Bubble is 5, just one month younger than Buzzy and is our happiest, most boisterous  and dramatic family member.  She loves to play dolls, help in the kitchen, color and keep up with her new siblings.  Whenever we talk about Jesus, she lights up and smiles.  Her new favorite song is Jesus Loves Me and Joy to the World.  She is extremely motivated to learn and is picking up English well.  The three older kids love to hear her stories of life in Congo, which are told in great detail and with much drama.  Little Peanut is the precious new “baby” of the family.  She is very quiet and the quickest and most willing helper in the house.  She can often be found doing other’s chores – which, of course, the other kids love. Ha!  She can get away with just about anything with the other four kids – I guess it’s in return for doing their chores. :-)  All the kids love music, books, swimming, riding bikes, and just playing together.

I continue to educate the kiddos at home.  We are still trying to find our new groove with the addition of the girls.  But before that we were immensely enjoying using many of the Simply Charlotte Mason methods and ideas.  It was such a welcome relief from the burden of our prior curriculum.  The kids were loving school and we were having a great time.  I hope to find a new enjoyable schedule to begin the new year, though I am beginning to realize that we might never get back to the tight, neat little one we used to know. Ha!  But I am so incredibly thankful that the kids get to be together during this transition time for our family.  Adam is continually reminding me of the valuable things they are learning as a result of being home and not scattered in different directions all day.  It is definitely funny and interesting how our philosophy of home education has changed since T was in Pre-K.  It used to be academics all the way.  Push! Push! Push!  And now we realize how little the Lord has to say about academics and how much He has to say about learning to fear Him, love others, obey authority, work hard, develop Christ-like character qualities…all pretty much summed up in the first and second great commandments.  I have been struck lately by the verse that says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36).  The Lord is teaching all of us valuable lessons!

Adam now works from home about four days a week…just another indescribable blessing for our family.  It has provided me the opportunity to run errands (with only a few kids, rather than 5) or get out alone every once in a while…to run more errands. Ha!  Even the support he provides by being up in his office, is really helpful.  The kids love having him around and are sad when it’s a day he has to actually go to work.

I continued to experience some health issues this past year.  I experienced little relief from migraine headaches, even though I experimented with various drugs to try to help.  I was told by one doctor that I had Lupus.  I have yet to find the time to get a second opinion on that one.  Ha! Though currently I am experiencing a flare-up of whatever it is that is wrong with me…zapping me of energy and causing a lot of fatigue and joint pain.  Through it all, the Lord has been kind.  Adam’s ability to work from home has been a lifesaver, as well as a sweet girl that has helped us out for the past couple of months on a daily basis.  And we have never been without the Lord’s sustaining grace and strength through each trial.  Many times I have just cried out (begging, actually…)for him to be strong amidst my weakness.

The Lord has blessed us immensely and so undeservedly and we have so much to be thankful for (and so far to go in having that thankful spirit all day, every day, in all circumstances, all the time…)  He has provided truly everything we need and beyond.  We give Him all praise and glory for His presence and love.  The God-man Jesus…in the manger, as a grown man, on the cross and risen are the only reason we have hope in this season or any other.  Blessings to you as you begin 2013 reflecting on our Savior’s accomplished work on behalf of all who will believe.

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Our sweet Christmas blessings from Africa

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I have taken this annual Christmas tree photo since the kids first Christmas.  And now this year, the train has grown with our two beautiful additions.  (T – 8 years old, M – 6 years old, Little Buzzy – 5 years old, Joy-Bubble – 5 years old, Little Peanut – 3 years old)

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And then there is dad, with his new sweeties…who love to snuggle and give kisses.

 

 

How We Choose to See…

I recently read on Ann Voskamp’s journal that

Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective.  

These words were a reminder that how we choose to see affects everything.  How I have prayed in the past weeks for a heavenly perspective, God-sight.  I don’t want to miss a moment of what He ordains and has intended for my good.  It brings to mind the multitude of verses in God’s word about giving thanks in everything, in all circumstances, for all things.  The Lord knows what is best for us!  He is all-wise and infinite.  Life lived his way is immensely good for us.  And He desires His glory through our joy.

So it all seems to keep coming back to this one thing for me: thankfulness…in everything (good and bad, beautiful and ugly, happy and sad, less than ideal…everything!)  Why do I keep forgetting that?

So my thankful list keeps growing on and on:

  • My first “I love you” all on it’s own from our new sweet 5-year-old joy-bubble.
  • Sweet new sisters that lay in bed at night and sing songs in Lingala.  It is beautiful and sweet!
  • The first smacky kiss, all of her own idea, from little 3-year-old peanut.  And the many many kisses she loves to give since then.
  • A long conversation with my sweet 6-year-old M involving me apologizing to her for being impatient and explaining the gospel again and my need for Jesus and hers too.
  • Strength and the stick-to-itness needed for discipline and training of now five children.  Whew, this is often the most exhausting part of my day, but the Lord has reminded me lately that this is the important stuff of parenting…even when it interferes with the rest of life.  Seeing properly!  Perspective!  These are the habits and disciplines built for all their lives right here.  And oh! how I plead with him that he causes our meager attempts to be effective.  {The older my kids get, the more and more I realize experientially what I philosophically knew before – that the Lord has to do the work in each heart!}
  • Spending time with just my boys reading “Pencil and Gretel” (as 5-year-old Buzzy calls it) and also talking through some catechism questions, explaining the gospel yet again to them both.
  • A husband who helps me to relax…to lighten up and take the pressure off of areas where I am super driven.
  • The words of Scripture:  “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8
  • A request in Lingala (interpreted with hand motions), to lay down with J while she was going to sleep.
  • Smiles that come more readily at bedtime…at-first a difficult time for the girls.
  • The “I love you mama”, spoken in Little Peanut’s broken English.  Can I bottle that up and keep it always?  Melts my heart.
  • A baby girl who has learned that her new mama is a safe zone…and runs there often (when T is chasing her or when she thinks she is hurt or when she wants hugs and kisses).  And this mama eats it up!
  • Kids who play adoption – thankful for one, because they even have a category for adoption and two, because their imaginative play is so much fun.  Here the bear family traveled to adopt Skippy John Jones and they are presently riding home with him on the airplane.  Ha!
  • The at least 500 times the word “Mama!!” is spoken in a day’s time.  OK…so I am not always thankful when it is droning in the background and I am trying to get something done {always the choice between people and tasks, right?}.  But when I stop and look, these two girls are so excited all the time to show me something.  I am so blessed to be their mama and so incredibly happy they now have a mama who they can call upon to find their interests important.  Thank you, Lord!
  • Overflowing affection and love for my two new precious daughters that can only be explained as a gift from the Lord who gives graciously to his children.  I LOVE these girls so much!!  The Lord puts families together and I am blown away by the children he has given me.  They are perfect for our family and our family for them.  The Lord has done great things!

Love truly multiplies, it never divides.

  • For a big family!  Wow, I never knew having a big family would be so much fun.  Well, it has its moments of craziness, right?  But crazy is just becoming our new normal.  Again, it all depends on how we see, right?  I have told several people how much I love having 5 kids.  These five kids.  I mean I LOVE it!!  All my worst fears have yet to come to fruition…isn’t that the way it is with Jesus?!  Seeing how the kids are meshing and loving one another is beautiful.  The Lord has answered so many prayers!  He gets all the credit and glory for it.
  • Seeing each child find their place and have someone to love and watch out for each day is priceless.
  • Watching T rise to the task of  “oldest brother” and love on his sisters and give of himself for them.
  • Watching all four of the kids line up at Little Peanut’s high chair to receive a kiss from her…PRICELESS!
  • The gift of being able to homeschool.  Well, that’s crazy and chaotic at times too!  But choosing to see it through the Lord’s eyes makes it a beautiful experience.  I cannot imagine our kids all going separate ways all day long right now.  They have become so close and learned so many things by being together all the time.  It is sweet time!  We are blessed to be here.  I am convinced it has made our transition with the new girls so much smoother.  And everyone is learning…amazingly!
  • Our first road trip with all 5 to visit family.  The girls LOVE their new Coco Mawasi’s and Coco Mubali’s.  And all the kids got to run and run and play outside for hours and experience all kinds of fun that isn’t normal for them.  So thankful for family!
  • For Psalm 127 that tells me that “children are a heritage from the LORD…blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame…”  Doesn’t this fly in the face of the world’s view of children?  I recently experienced this degrading and ugly worldview during my trip to Costco with all five kids.  So thankful that the Lord gives me glimpses of where I would be were it not for His grace {and where I was before His grace washed over me}.  Praise God for Jesus, who came to make things right and turn back over the upside down.  Waiting eagerly for His return!

A Huge Milestone

All on his own, this little man picked up The Polar Express, sat down at the island and read it all the way through…sounding out words, reading with expression, complete with sound effects.  This is definitely a first and I had to share it!  I have been so worried along his journey thus far, wondering when the time will come that he will ever choose to pick up a book all on his own and actually read it.  Well today was the day!

I haven’t shared much about our home schooling adventures that we are six weeks into already this school year.  But it is going wonderfully…thanks to wisdom from the Lord and Simply Charlotte Mason methods and planning tools.  Scaling back on the academics (we have come to realize through many hardships that hard-core isn’t for this age but for 6th grade and above), reading more together in the forms of  poetry, geography (learning the African Continent with help from this resource), music, art, science, history (starting at creation), and narration sprinkled throughout.  We are using Right Start for math and absolutely LOVE it!  And just a little copy work each day (emphasis on little!)  It has been great!  I can’t say enough about this method and how it has salvaged my opinion of home schooling. Backing off and having only 20 minutes lessons for each subject (and scattering them throughout the week) has created much more of a desire to learn in this little guy.  He is as happy as a lark and loves school now (after emphatically telling us that he hated the old curriculum). The Lord is so kind.  I am definitely praising Him!

And while he was reading in the kitchen, this was happening in the living room – M reading to little Buzzy. Wow!  We have turned a corner at our house.  I am loving this. Thank you, Lord!

 

Family Update

I thought I would give an update on our family so far this year as it has been a while.  In the midst of a difficult year (and it’s only March!), the Lord has been so kind to sustain us and bring us along, teaching us much about His nearness and grace.  His mercies are new every morning!  And these three beautiful children He has given to us keep us busy and laughing.  There is much for which to be thankful!

The kids enjoyed making Valentines for their cousins and grandparents.

My old Stampin’ Up stuff came in handy!

The “bumpeter” as T called it, was a super big hit.  They could have run paper through that thing all day long.

I had not laughed so hard in a long while before this fun family night of doing “jump splits” on the little indoor trampoline.  T jumped right onto it and informed us he was going to show us how a cowboy jumps (complete with gun in his hand and holster around his pajamaed waist).  And he just kept doing one of those splits right after another.  We definitely have gymnastic boys!  And then sweet M…we just laughed so hard! Our kids are definitely used to be laughed at – in fact sometimes they ask us to stop. Ha!!  But then you should have seen their faces when Adam and I tried the “jump splits”.  I was literally on the floor laughing!  Good times!

T reading Snow White to W. Ha!!!!

School is plugging along, at a much more relaxed pace.   T is almost done with his first grade phonics and M with her kindergarten curriculum.  Both have learned lots this year, I think.  And little W learns a lot by listening and being read to by T and M.  We do his pre-k curriculum occasionally.  M actually really enjoys being his teacher and he enjoys being the student so they are often found like this. :-)  Actually, it is amazingly helpful! We’ll just keep moving along to the next thing and take a long break when we bring our girls home.

W’s famous wink.  So hilarious and cute – a heart-melter for sure!  And he enjoys this specialty of his. “Mom, I winked at a lady at the party on Sunday,” he informs me today.  Oh no!  How old was this lady? :-)

Dress-up is one of the favorite activities of M.  But she can’t be alone, so she always ropes W into playing with her.

Popsicle sticks and glue have been the latest hit.

Loved M’s coloring job…the black skin and brown hair.  Adorable!

Play dough on the kitchen floor is also the newest play palette.  This session lasted almost 3 hours!  They just pretend and pretend.  It is always so hilarious to listen in.  They are all such a gift to each other.

The gluten-free diet is going strong.  I am officially convinced that it helps my headaches and the overall way that I feel.  It also has been helping little W.  Anytime he eats gluten, within an hour his belly hurts and the slightest bit of gluten brings on a headache within an hour for me.  It is tough because the only safe place to eat is at home.  But it’s worth making the necessary adjustments, for sure!  The photo above is of zucchini muffins.  I am really enjoying my cookbooks and trying new things (when I have time).  The one I have used the most is the Kindle version of the Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free book.  I like her flour mixture and the recipes to go along with it.

GF pancakes are a once-a-week breakfast at our house.  Little W used to throw them up often, when they were wheat.  Now he eats plates full and is a happy camper.

Coconut flour chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting were a hit!  I found the recipe here.

Regular meals are by far the hardest, especially ones that the kids like.  But I have found potatoes, beans, rice and GF pasta to be a great replacement for all the wheat that we were used to.  I also am loving our whole foods buying club, Trader Joe’s, Amazon Prime, Whole Foods and Costco for finding all the ingredients.  So many things are GF these days…but it’s those hidden ingredients that get me every time!

And we’ve been eating fruit like crazy.  Super yummy plain or in smoothies.

The latest products at our home are Norwex Enviro cloths, Window Cloths and Dusting Mitts!  After hearing from a friend of these awesome cloths where you just use water to clean your entire house, I was super interested.  But then after going to her party, I was absolutely sold on them.  So we are cleaning this way now and loving it!   It is saving a lot of time (one cloth for the entire house goes pretty quickly) and over the long haul will save a boatload of money (no cleaning products on the grocery list again…yay!)  I could go on and on….  So then…I decided to become a consultant and sell them.  We had been thinking through different ways to earn the final amount of money we need for our adoptions.  The original estimate from our agency was low, so though we thought we had it all covered, we will be short – for things like airfare and the cash we’ll have to take with us when we travel.  So we will see what the Lord does through Norwex sales. :-)  We know he will provide one way or the other.  If you would like to check out the products, you can go here.  All commission will go towards our adoption.

In closing, I have to share two kid funnies.  M was wiping her face with the Norwex Enviro Cloth and said, “Mom, is my face as clean as the windows?”  And T was washing his hands after a meal and says to himself, “Norwex…to make all your cleaning dreams come true.” Oh my!  Laughed so hard.

 

 

 

Thankful Reflections…on a Monday

In spite of a really rough week of headaches, the Lord was kind.  And just knowing that it was the last week of school before taking a two-week break helped keep me going.  And shouldn’t our lives be lived that way…with the hope of heaven waiting at the end?  We can make it!  It will be worth it!  We have pains and trials and less than ideal here, don’t we?  That’s OK.  He hasn’t promised heaven here.  Actually he’s promised suffering and hardship here on this narrow path that leads to life. (John 16:33, Matthew 7:13-14) And at the end…heaven!  But here…amidst the cloudy mist that often veils our future hope, we just keep clinging to the promises found in His word.  We just keep clinging to Jesus!  ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)  As I was praying over my children tonight, I prayed this for them and for myself.  And part of faith is giving thanks in all things, even when I don’t ‘feel’ like it or when I am tempted to take things for granted.  Part of faith is stopping, slowing down and seeing Christ, savoring His work in the moments and seeing His hand etching our times and writing the details that make up our stories and the stories of those around us.  Believing He is at work!  So thank you, Heavenly Father, for bestowing such beautiful gifts like:

  • A husband’s job that is flexible enough to be worked from home (once again…) for a day when the headaches hit.
  • An almost weekly date night with a husband who, this week, updated me to the latest iPhone.  What guy does that?  Gives his wife the latest and keeps the oldest for himself?  A Spirit-filled one for sure!  So many reasons to be thankful for this man I’ve been given.
  • For kids who love their daddy so much that they squeal and shout and carry on when he arrives at  home early to work from home.  A day of dad working from home just makes everyone feel better!
  • Bubble wrap…and kids who thought it was the greatest thing in the whole world!  And the house was quiet so I went looking (as all moms should do, right?) and found two of them in their ‘couch fort’ sharing a piece of bubble wrap…popping away. Ha!! Ok, so that just made me laugh and want to cry and warmed my heart all at the same time.
  • An ornery daughter…the picture says it all.
  • A son who no longer wears pull-ups at night!  Can you hear my Amens! and Praise the Lord!’s all the way through to your computer!! :-)  And I prayed and prayed that the Lord would help him and give us wisdom (I envisioned a 14-year old with all kinds of medical contraptions or whatever they do…)…so shouldn’t this be the normal expectation, that He would answer…but I had such little faith that it would ever happen.  T just decided one night that he would do it and he did and has been dry each night since.  We’ve prayed about it each night and then praised the Lord in the morning.  Such small things we take for granted with some children are big milestones with others.  And the Lord is increasing my prayer life through them.  But everything, big and small, is a praise!  And everything that increases our dependence on our Father is a praise!
  • Miss Genevieve’s gracious help with M’s hair (well, she pretty much did it)…straightened for the 2nd time.  It went even better than the first time and turned out great.  So incredibly thankful for her kindness (and so thankful for her hair styling abilities in general for these past couple of years!).
  • Our “Christmas Eve” celebration snacks obtained from Trader’s Joe’s (the one time this year that we went and bought yummy sugary foods and loaded up their plates…ha!).  Our little family celebrated Christmas on Saturday, so Friday night we had our ‘family night’ party and watched our yearly tradition of Nativity Story and had a slumber party.  So thankful for such fun, memory-making times.
  • Our Christmas celebration…early, low-key and lots of fun.  The kids were so excited and couldn’t wait until Saturday morning.  We have never made much over gifts, so they didn’t expect much.  They were the most excited for their stockings and little W got the most excited over the candy cane.  We got a lot of laughs!  And it was a reminder that as an earthy father loves to give good gifts to his children, how much more our Heavenly Father loves to give what is good to His children when we ask. (Matthew 7:11)
  • A tea party with M, her daddy and her new tea set (that is safe to actually use).  Super sweet!  And of course it had to be followed with a dance. Ha!  She loves her daddy time (no little boys allowed). “Dad, I’ll invite you to my wedding. And mom will be my maid of honor thing.” Laughs!
  • A stomp rocket that was a hit inside (not recommended) and out and was a way to show kindness to two neighbor boys.  And an oldest son who offered to let the neighbor boys use it first and ‘borrow it since they didn’t have one’.  What a reminder of how we should be with our belongings…quick to share!  So sweet!
  • So much encouragement found in my Bible reading this week.  And praying as our pastor said…to see more of Christ in my reading.  I already know what I should do (love, submit, be patient, etc…), but I need the power to do it and I desperately want to see Christ as I read the Word each morning.
  • Sweet conversations with the kids each morning while reading the Proverb that goes along with the date.  And sweet conversations each evening as we did our Jesse Tree devotional…getting closer and closer to His birth.  Precious times!
  • This article (and little bitty conversations with my researcher husband) regarding math and littles.  Oh the freedom I’m starting to glimpse after a lot of struggling with oldest (thinking there has to be a better way to teach him).  Maybe we’ve caught it in time before a lifelong hate of math has developed…praying so.  Going to keep reading and researching for the new year’s plan.  Sometimes I think we are so programmed for factory education that we can’t even see beyond it…that maybe there is another way that works but that would involve stepping outside the ‘zone’ and that would be crazy radical, right?  Scary, ridiculous!  But our children’s lifelong love of…take math for instance, is on the line.  So I’m about to pray and take the leap.  No one else cares for them like us, so it’s our job!  And I am praising the Lord, for friends like Kathy, mother of three boys (who emailed me with encouragement and a new math curriculum idea that I am still researching but that so far looks awesome!) and for organizations like The Trivium who have researched and offer their knowledge to us.  And for the Lord’s timing when I am at my wit’s end and sweet T can’t take another math worksheet…bless him!

 

Reflecting Back On 2011

This past year was a full one at our home…full of blessings that is!  Blessings that came in many different forms.  I wanted to share some of them with you as we end 2011.  I am truly thankful to Jesus for His undeserved kindness, grace and mercy in our lives.

  • We started January with a new home school journey with our oldest.  We pulled him from the school he had been in (a cottage school) and began down the traditional home school route.  We used Memoria Press curriculum (except for the math, we used Saxon) for his kindergarten experience and loved it!  We doubled up on lessons and he finished by summer.  We decided to not take a summer break (except for a few days) and just kept going, at a slower pace.  I tried my hand at ‘mixing and matching’ curriculums to try to ease our daughter into kindergarten (and to ease me into schooling two children in two different grades).  But alas, after about 6 weeks of that (in which time they did learn a lot from “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”), we went back to Memoria Press for everyone (including Rod & Staff math – but at the half-way point we are having to make a change in that one area to a different math).  I realized there was no ‘easy’ to home schooling multiple children – no matter the curriculum…the key was just to put one foot in front of the other and do it! :-)  So we now have a 1st grader, a Kindergartner, and a Pre-k student.  Life is crazy…loud and fun crazy….but crazy.  And it is good!  The joy of seeing them learn and progress is really amazing.  But I definitely encounter daily bumps on this parent-turned-school teacher road and am finding the Lord’s grace and mercy to be mine in ways I never knew was possible or even needed.  I recently told my family that Adam currently has a packet from the local private school that uses Memoria Press sitting on his desk.  I called for that during a really bad week. Ha!  It just made me feel better to at least send for it.  But as my daughter says, “We need to ‘woman up’, mom.”  (We are always telling our sons to ‘man up’ so our daughter thinks ‘woman up’ must be the equivalent.) And the relationship that has formed between the three children is really sweet.  They are definitely best friends.  And He frequently answers my prayer for humility as I am daily having to apologize to my kids for something!  So thankful for Jesus!  So thankful!
I love this!  Every once in a while she talks them into playing house with dolls with her.  Usually she is found playing house with cars with them.
  • Another incredible blessing in the schooling journey is that both T and M began reading – and love it!  I am still just amazed by this! Little by little as they learned their sounds and each lesson built upon the other – they started putting words together and…voila!  Their excitement was so sweet!  And I am still excited about it too!  And though they aren’t quite on the same level, they can help each other out with words, which is really cute (and at times quite funny).  And it is so nice to be able to give T a book and have him sit and read it.  It is opening up a whole other world to him.  And to see M’s enthusiasm and desire to keep learning more!  She is the most driven of all our children.  And of course, Little W is just chomping at the bit to get right in there with them.
  • A personal blessing was that I was able to train for and run three races this past Spring – all firsts for me!  And all due to the prompting of sweet friends.  I ran a 5K, a 10-K and a mini-marathon.  It was a lot of fun to train with friends and get to spend time with them (well, the time spent with them was a lot more fun than the training…ha!).  And it was just the grace of the Lord to physically and mentally be able to do that when I had never done such a thing before!
  • The family pets we acquired this year were chickens!  Though we’ve lived in an urban environment for over 5 years now, our city lets us urbanites have up to 6 backyard chickens.  So we took the plunge and have enjoyed it immensely!  And Oh! the stories we’ve gained and the fun we’ve had!  Adam built a fun little coop for them and we gather their eggs daily and have fun watching the kids chase them around the yard (well, what’s left of it!).  What a blessing the whole experience has been.
  • A family blessing continues to be Adam’s job as a software developer.  He has been with the same company for over two years now.  We laugh when we look back over 13 years ago at when we started this journey together.  Adam has gone from high-school/middle-school teacher to seminary student to handyman/auditor to software developer.  The Lord certainly has taken him on quite the career journey…and been incredibly kind!
  • A summer blessing was that a kind and generous family member let us use their pool anytime we liked.  This was actually a direct answer to my prayers!  I really wanted the kids to have a summer swimming outlet but didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars at the Y (and drive across town every afternoon).  So this ended up being such a huge blessing!  And the kids had so much fun and built their swimming skills at the same time.  The Lord is truly kind!
  • An exciting family blessing is that we decided in February to pursue adoption from the DR Congo.  This was after much, much praying over several years.  We anticipate being able to complete the adoption(s) sometime in 2012.  You can read more about our process here.  We are currently 6th on the waiting list for a referral (although we recently found out that the ‘list’ doesn’t mean a whole lot…but we know the Lord’s timing is perfect!).  Once we have a referral, we are told it will be about 4-6 months until we travel.  We are praying for at least one girl under the age of 3.  M cannot wait to have a baby sister to share her room with and feed and help out with.  She is a little nurturer and lover of babies, so I don’t doubt that she’ll be a big helper.
  • Along the lines of adoption…Adam sent me to The Orphan Summit  in May (I posted several blog articles about it).  This was a super huge treat for me and such a kindness on his part.  It was an amazing time of hearing about all the different angles of orphan care around the U.S. and world.  I came away refreshed and blessed by so many I met there…and their stories were just amazing testimonies to the power of our God!  He truly cares for the fatherless!
  • Our year has not been without trials, which are also blessings.  And I can honestly say that!  We have a loving heavenly Father who always does good for us.  There is no wrath or anger left for us…it was all poured out on His Son at the cross.  So His dealings with us are only in love and kindness and the trials and difficulties he allows in our lives are to make us more into the image of His Son and to chip away the ‘us’ that shouldn’t be there.  In March I was hit with an onslaught of migraine headaches like never before.  I have had these for 13 years and taken medicine as needed, but since March they have hit with new fervor. After the realization that something had to be done or Adam’s vacation time was going to be all used up on sick days, I went on a dreaded every-day medicine to try to control them.  Well…let’s just say…side effects.  But through it all, the Lord has been nearer to me than ever before.  His words have been my life line.  And I have such a kind husband!  So many undeserved blessings!!  And other trials have come, one right after the other…but the Lord has grown us and shown us His faithfulness like never before.
  • A huge blessing in the fall was getting to take a week’s vacation to the panhandle of Florida.  This was probably the best vacation we have ever gotten to take, as a family – and we figured the last one as a family of five.  The kids were so much fun – and they had so much fun getting to see the ocean, swim in it and play in the sand.  And being able to take a week off of school was such a blessing, since we plugged away through the summer.  It was so nice to be able to relax and soak up some sun and beauty and spend time together as a family without the daily rush.  Such an undeserved kindness!
The view from our condo balcony.
  • Getting to celebrate birthdays are always a big deal here (well, Adam and I aren’t so much into ours…ha!)  But life is such a gift…we never want to take that for granted!  I am always telling the kids that each breath is undeserved. Thank you, Jesus!
W’s 4th birthday in April.
We went camping with our Community Group over M’s 5th birthday in May and got to celebrate our good friend K’s as well.
T’s 7th birthday celebration in October.
Our family tradition has always been doughnuts from our favorite ‘hole-in-the-wall’ doughnut shop around the corner.
Here we are celebrating again in September.
  • Getting to spend each day with our children is a truly a blessing for us…to watch them grow (and it is going fast!), to grow with them, to get to laugh (at them and with them), to hear their hearts, to guide them, to pray with them, to cry with them, to just live life together as a family and reach out to others and all that is involved in that is truly a gift.  We are so thankful that perfection isn’t required for parenting.  I am thankful that I can tell my kids that often (as I am apologizing to them…yet again).  I am thankful that I have a Savior who IS perfect that I can run to and that I can point them to.  I am thankful that I am not above them (in fact, I must come as they – a little child)…we are all equal at the foot of the cross…sinners in need of so much grace and forgiveness.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming as a humble baby-king, living as a perfect man – pleasing Your father in all areas, dying a death for me!, coming to life again, ascending to heaven and promising that YOU are coming back one day.  All is well!  Merry CHRISTmas and a very blessed New Year to you!

 

Monday Morning Reflections…

Oh what a week of much crying out to the Lord!

-For forgiveness of sins…that wickedness of soul that just pops up out of nowhere at different times. And that wickedness of soul that is grotesquely deliberate and ensnares my thoughts and actions by my own choices.  “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!  My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

-For greater working of the Holy Spirit in my life…for greater sensitivity, for greater illumination of old truths and new ones as well, as His words pour over my soul each morning (my lifeline!).

-For an awareness of how short this life is upon hearing this week of the death of three believers.

-For the sacrifice of praise…at all times…no matter what feelings are raging inside.  Oh to live by the Spirit and not the flesh! To live a self-forgetful life, I am sure, is the only one worth living in the end. As one of my favorite singer/song-writers, Fernando Ortega sings, Give Me Jesus, so this has been my prayer this week.

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus, 
You can have all this world, 
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, 
Give me Jesus, 
You can have all this world, 
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, 
Give me Jesus, 
You can have all this world, 
You can have all this world, 
You can have all this world, 
But give me Jesus

And this Monday morning, as in the past few weeks, I wanted to share a few of the ‘gifts’ on my list from this past week. These are gifts of thanks straight from the hand of my gracious Heavenly Father.  Over the past year, through finding the multiple places in the Bible emphasizing the bedrock importance of thankfulness and the writings of Ann Voskamp, I have slowly begun to see with new eyes the blessings that lie around me.  I have been made keenly aware of each little gift as being from His hand.  That’s not to say that at every moment I have given thanks…actually I have seen how ungrateful I have been most of my life and how utterly ugly and abominable that is to my Heavenly Father!  And unfortunately there have been all too many grumbling moments spread throughout this past year too, for which repentance is continually needed (thank you Jesus!). But I am going to keep plugging away at my thankfulness list, asking for an even deeper heart of thankfulness as I do so – for eyes to keep on seeing afresh. Our God is kind to keep His promises to us through Christ…He will never cease His work of sanctifying us, shaping us into His Son’s image, chipping away those rough edges, burning off the dross, refining us in the fire at times, until the day we see Him face -to-face. All because of His great love for us through Christ.  It is all about His story and His kingdom.

This morning as I reflect back on this week, I am thankful for…

  • Raking leaves…and how therapeutic and relaxing it is!  (Can you tell I don’t live in the country any more?)  I love manual labor and how clearing it is to the mind and soul…am thankful for brief opportunities to do it in this urban setting.
  • The perfect antidote to fear of man.  Isaiah 2:22 – “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”  And a remembrance of our pastor’s words several years ago…to the effect of, “The second someone dies, their opinion dies with them, so why do you worry about what people think? God is eternal – His opinion will last forever!”  Thank you, Lord, that Your words are so wise and reach to the depths of my soul.  Thank you for the comfort that they brought over and over as I reminded myself of this verse this week.  You are eternal, we are but a breath – here and gone.  
  • All five chickens laying eggs…several times this week!  (Thanks to a light installed in the coop by Adam, now that the days are short on light.)  And a sweet daughter’s excitement and overflowing hands as she brought them into the house.
  • Memoria Press Curriculum, complete with lesson plans and read-aloud book sets for all three grades.  So thankful that all the guess-work has been taken out of the homeschool equation for me (for almost a year now). The Lord knows it wouldn’t work otherwise!  It has been such a fun blessing and gift for our family.  Love it!  And super thankful for it for now!
  • Oldest son, who is officially a budding photographer, carrying my camera around the house taking pictures of life from his view point (and so excited to show them to me).  Some of his gallery below…

His favorite verse that Miss Laura taught them one night while babysitting.
Sister always has on such interesting outfits.  And she always wants to know what her brothers think.  Ha!
  • Cleaning the house with my kids (two of them each assigned a bathroom, and little W an encouragement role…ha!) So thankful for the energy this week – and ability to work and clean and teach my kids the same.
  • For help with some painting projects…and the initial spur to get some other painting projects done.
  • Thinking on the deaths this week of three believers…and the reminder from John 11:35 that “Jesus wept” over death.  And the reminder from Philippians 1:21 that “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Encouraged by the words of this Sovereign Grace song, To Live Is Christ:
Before You gave us life and breath
You numbered all our days
You set Your gracious love on us
And chose us to be saved
This fleeting life is passing by
With all its joys and pain
But we believe to live is Christ
And death is gain
Chorus
To live is Christ, to die is gain
In every age this truth remains
We will not fear, we’re unashamed
To live is Christ, to die is gain
Verse 2
And though we grieve for those we love
Who fall asleep in Christ
We know they’ll see the Savior’s face
And gaze into His eyes
So now we grieve, yet we don’t grieve
As those who have no hope
For just as Jesus rose again
He’ll raise His own
Verse 3
And now we’re longing for the day
We’ll see the Lamb once slain
Who saved a countless multitude
To glorify His name
We’re yearning for the wedding feast
Of Jesus and His bride
His nail-scarred hands will finally
Bring us to His side
  • A Friday night wedding celebration of two people whose lives are a complete picture of God’s grace and power.
  • A pastor, who when asked to preach at a wedding, always preaches with power…and we all get excited and anticipate great things because we walk away feeling convicted, moved, encouraged, like we’ve just been at a worship service (because we have), like we should have been taking notes, like we’ve definitely been where the Spirit of God was moving (because He was!).
  • A Saturday morning memorial service (I think possibly only the second or third one I’ve ever been to in my life of a believer…at least as I remember it)…and the joy and hope that flowed!  The gospel of Jesus was all over the place! Definitely the way I want it when I die…to be all about Jesus!
  • The new ‘quiet’ at our house.  Reading!
  • The reminder from our pastor that ‘Radical desires can be fueled by pride.’  So pray (Luke 11:4b), “Lead me not into temptation.”  (as in) “Don’t give me more than I can handle.” Such a good word.  The answer isn’t to throw away all radical desires but to PRAY for the Lord to not give us more than we can handle (humility verses prideful arrogance).
  • Our home.  Reminded of this simple thanks as we were out shopping. Our daughter says, “I can’t wait to be home.  I love home.  Well, I should love God more than home, but I love our home.”  Reminded me how thankful I am for a place to call ‘home’ and for a place that our children love to be and call ‘home’.
  • A random stranger saving me $28 in Kohl’s.  Incredibly thankful…and how kind!
  • A husband, who, earlier in the week planned a Sunday dinner celebration meal where we would spontaneously invite people after church.  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill and overflow our time and bring the people who should be there.  And WOW!  What an amazing 10 people we had sitting around our dining room table! Words can’t describe the beautiful, beautiful culture-unifying Christ-exalting time we had.  Thank you, Jesus, that we get to be a part of your body here in this town, in this church, at this time.  Thank you for answered prayers on so many levels!  I want to see more of Your Spirit working here in this place…bringing people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds together worshipping the Christ who made us!  Worshipping the Christ who is bigger than any culture…bigger than any obstacle that we ever may face.  You are building Your church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!

Monday Morning Reflections…

Monday mornings have turned into a time of reflection.  Looking back on the faithfulness of the Lord in my life and the life of my family.  And looking forward to the coming week with anticipation, knowing that every one of my great God’s promises will be “Yes!” and “Amen!” through Christ.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”  Psalm 34 

I am so thankful for…

  • A week of weakness…to remind me of my humanness and frailty and His care for me in the midst of it all.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • The amazing gift of a husband’s job that is flexible enough to be worked from home…when those headaches hit…and those sweet kids keep going.  The Lord is kind!
  • Friends with which to share our dinner…and talk of missions and parenting and life.
  • The Word pouring over my soul each morning…always just what I need – my lifeline!
  • The last few days of 70 degree weather…and time spent outside enjoying it!
  • A husband who started keeping a thankful list…and is amazed by the difference a thankful heart makes.
  • The reminder from James 3:13-18 that jealousy and envy are demonic and bring disorder and every vile practice, no matter how much one goes around trying to ‘appear’ wise.  True wisdom is from above (not below) and is “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (as in…truly sincere, not just put on).  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  Such an encouragement to my soul…and my prayer!
  • This week’s homemade bread (definitely the best yet!)…recipe below.
  • Finally reaching that place in our homeschooling journey where I could tell a total stranger who asked this week that, “We really enjoy it.” Woe!  Did I just say that?  And I really meant it!  What a gift. Thank you, Lord, for giving much grace – even during a very weak week!
  • For long-awaited news that we are ‘Aunt and Uncle’ for the 31st time…to a nephew officially joining the family…who has already been a part of it for so long!  So many prayers answered…so many prayers answered!
  • A 7-year-old son who sat and read an entire Literature Lesson book in one sitting…all on his own.  His reading has progressed amazingly well!  This is a gift beyond words (and for his excitement over reading 3 pages of his new favorite Hardy Boys book)…thank you, Lord!
  • A driven 5-year-old who is already half-way through her Kindergarten curriculum at the beginning of November.  Thank you, Lord, for these minds you’ve given to these kids.  How I pray you would grow them and cause them to use them for Your glory!  Help me to keep You at the center and not just mere book knowledge.
  • For neighbors/church friends who found that four of our chickens had flown the fence…and helped to bring them safely back.
  • Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip cookies
  • For a community group that is real…where we can all share our struggles and fears and receive the balm of the gospel and not condemnation.
  • For this sermon, after much thinking over the Holy Spirit in the last couple of weeks – and begging for more of the Spirit – and then hearing from a humble pastor that we should be doing that!  And seven years of these kinds of sermons!
  • Snuggly slippers
  • For remembering those days when when we desired children and prayed for just one…and the Lord did exceedingly abundantly beyond and gave us three (in a year-and-a-half time span).  I was just overwhelmed this week by that remembrance and just so thankful to Him for these three precious gifts.
Tasty Whole Wheat Bread
——————————————————————————–

Recipe By: Best of Country Breads
Yield: 4 Loaves

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, 110-115 degrees
1 quart warm buttermilk, 110-115 degrees
1/2 cup butter, softened
2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sucanat , (or brown sugar)
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
8-9 cups unbleached bread flour, (King Arthur)

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add buttermilk and butter, stirring until butter begins to melt. Add the whole wheat flour, sucanat (or brown sugar), wheat germ, salt and 4 cups unbleached bread flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into four pieces. Shape into loaves. Place in four greased loaf pans and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

 

Lessons in Manliness…sort of

 

Last week I read this fun little book to T.  As I mentioned in my school post, we are really enjoying the first grade read-alouds from Memoria Press.  The book T is holding in the photo above is one of them.  This book is a fun and fascinating little story about how Abraham Lincoln loved books and learning.  As I was reading it to T, I kept pointing out manly qualities of Abe Lincoln and how he learned to work hard, and was kind and honest.  (Now in an effort not to raise just moralistic kids, I always include the fact that even if we can be good without Christ, it is of no value in saving our souls because our good is never enough – but that Christ’s finished work can make a sinful boy into a godly man and produce good fruit in Him, etc…).  But as I was mentioning that Abe Lincoln only had one year of formal education, I said something like, “T, if Abe Lincoln only had one year of formal education and became president and did so much good for our country and people in general, think what you can do with 13 years of education!”  To which he replied, “Like kill a squirrel with a bat or lift cars in the air?” Ha!  Um…no, that was not the good was getting at.  But to a 6-year-old that sounds really manly and good! Ha!!  We’ll keep working on it and praying lots. :-)

School Days

I realized that I haven’t written anything about homeschooling since earlier in the year.  We officially finished out Kindergarten and have moved on to first grade for our oldest son and our daughter is officially in Kindergarten.   We are continuing through the summer, although definitely at a slower pace (the pool calls our name a lot of afternoons!).  The kids thrive with routine and knowing what each day holds (although we ultimately don’t control that).  And I find that they forget so much even after a few days of not doing school.  So I cannot imagine how much they would forget after a whole summer of no school.

But, as anyone who has home schooled for more than a few months knows, it is really challenging – especially with multiple children.  Learning my specific children and how they learn best – and abandoning methods that are ineffective (even though I’ve been told ‘that is the only way!’) is a slow process.  I have a hard time thinking outside my perfectionistic box, so-to-speak. So I am slowly learning that for home school to be effective and enjoyable, there is no black-and-white looking at it. FLUID must describe life, ideas, schedules, etc…  I am sure I am learning way more than the kids!  I am slowly working through guilt that plagues me as a mother, and especially a home schooling one.  I have had so many moments of “I am going to ruin my kids, for sure!  Where is the closest private school we can enroll them in and how quickly can we do it?” But Adam is the steady one and can talk sense back into my head at the end of long days. He is the visionary one – the one with the ‘why’ behind it all.  He is super encouraging.  And I am learning to listen to him when he says things.  Like, “Set the timer for 15 minutes of handwriting…stop when it beeps and move on to the next thing.”  I am such a perfectionist and have such high expectations of the kids.  I have a hard time knowing when it is OK to stop and move on.  So Adam and the timer have been my friends this year. :-)

And the Lord has been so kind throughout this journey.  He has brought people at just the right time to encourage me along the way.  Other more seasoned moms, and my own mom, have helped me to remember the big picture. And remind me that time goes by so quickly – to just enjoy this time!

I feel like I am at a place in my life where, like never before, I am experiencing the Lord’s strength and power.  I’ve never had to rely on Him so much before, in all of my 34 years!  So it is a good place to be.  And the house is messier, and the food is not as healthy as before home schooling and the days just fly by.  But there are so many rewarding and joyful and hilarious moments, for which I am so thankful to the Lord.

I got out our sons handwriting page from September 9th of last year, one of his first days at the school he attended for the first half of Kindergarten.  I compared it to what it looks like now – WOW!  It was an exciting reminder of how far he has come.  The Lord has truly been kind.  He was excited too.  This change represents hours of hard work, sweat and tears.

T's writing at the beginning of Kindergarten.

T's writing this summer. Unbelievable improvement!

M's first circles - complete with body parts. Love the differences between boys and girls!

Starting in January, we used Memoria Press for our Kindergarten curriculum.  I really enjoyed having it all laid out for me.  It was a good transition that built upon what he had already learned.  But for this year, I wasn’t sure how this curriculum, which is as heavy on handwriting as reading, would work for our daughter.  So I’ve chosen random things – Rod & Staff Math, Modern Curriculum Press Phonics and Spelling, The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading for Phonics and Reading, First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for grammar, Story of the World for history, Zaner Bloser and Memoria Press Copybooks for handwriting, Memoria Press for read-aloud books (cannot recommend these more!!) and classical music, social studies and art observation.  But I keep changing my mind, so who knows what we will actually end up with.  Our goal at this age is to help them learn the self-control and discipline needed to work hard while learning to read, write, spell and do basic math.  There are so many great options that cover the primary bases well.  And at this stage, we are just continuing to tweak things to find what works for us and what we can sustain for the long haul (at least through 4th grade).

I think the thing we all have enjoyed the most about Kindergarten and First Grade so far are the read-aloud books from Memoria Press.  In January we purchased the Kindergarten books and this summer we have purchased the first grade read-alouds.  It is definitely an investment, but these are such nice books!  We have spent many hours snuggled on the couch reading together.  I have recorded some of them as iTunes files so that the kids can listen and follow along on their own (helpful for the ones not being schooled at that moment).  Our kids just love books and being read to.

At the end of the day, I am so thankful that my identity is not found in being a wife, mother or home schooling mother. How horrible would that be?  I am so thankful that God has given me an identity found in Christ.  I am a daughter of the King of all Kings!  He has given me good works to fulfill (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10) through being a wife, mother and for this season a home schooling mother, but my works have nothing to do with my standing before God or identity as His daughter.  Christ paid it all, for me. He purchased my freedom from slavery to the law – and gave me a new heart that desires greater faithfulness, greater humility, greater Christlikeness until I meet him face to face.  Praise His name!!

Here the kids are wearing their backpacks (with all kinds of free stuff in them) from having completed our library's summer reading program. We read 30 books in 1 week!

 

T wrote this on the chalkboard one time when Miss Amber was babysitting a few months ago. This is what he says he wants to be when he grows up. Precious!! But then there are times when he actually can't make up his mind. Most of the time he wants to be a pastor or a missionary. But sometimes an astronaut, or engineer. So cute!