Oct 13, 2014

Renovating, settling in (for now) and trusting.

For the last several weeks our floors have been messy and the smell of saw dust floats through the house as my husband (with my dad's help) has been renovating a little addition on the back of our house.

Over the past two years we've used this room as it's originally intended purpose - a workshop and storage space. With chipboard covered walls, a cement floor, and little square windows that let in the cold, it hasn't been much to look at, which is fine for a space that holds tools and tennis rackets and stacks of wood and an artificial Christmas tree. I've barely went back there except to check for leaks when it rained before Loris re-shingled the roof.

But one day (after months of our house being on the market and not selling) we decided to try and turn it into a third bedroom. It would solve our immediate (and yes, first-world) problem of having to keep Miriam in our room since Joshua's room is almost too small for two beds and we were afraid they would keep each other awake all night long.

Suddenly this ugly space began to whisper it's potential and now, with newly framed and insulated walls and a big window and wiring and heat, I'm beginning to think of paint colors and curtains and the wonderful convenience of an extra bedroom and play area on our main floor!

But with this problem of limited space solved, we are questioning our original intent to move. Obviously, our house has not sold, so staying has proven to be the Lord's will for us at this time. But we wonder, should we try and list again next spring? Or aim to settle here?

In some ways, life feels unsettled right now: we are not sure about where we should live or what job direction Loris should try and take. We recently made the decision to stop attending the church we've been attending for the last two years, an action we feel was right but was (and is) so difficult nonetheless. We want to follow the Lord and the convictions we feel He's given us but I don't like the uncomfortable parts that come with such a decision...the worry of hurt feelings or the strain of feeling misunderstood or falsely judged. And now wondering where the Lord will lead us to? On top of these things I've been heavy-hearted lately over growing conflicts in relationships close to me.

What's my point in sharing these struggles? I guess I don't really have one, only that I want to live well in the stretches of life that offer many reasons for tension and doubt and anxiety, not giving in to these feelings but instead looking outward, and up. (Yes, easier said than done.)

In my flesh, I long for everything to be neat and tidy and comfortable, for the path to be smooth. I don't like uncertainty and waiting and not knowing what God has planned for us or those close to me.

The Lord knows this, but as a good and wise Father, He doesn't cater to my childish cravings. Unlike me, He sees and knows all things. I don't need a smooth path, I need to learn to trust Him as I walk the uneven ground. I don't need ease in my circumstances, I need to learn to rest in His love.

He is sufficient, more than enough. He is good, always. He's given much more than I can fathom. He is righteous, and all His doings are perfect.

When I stop to remember these things I'm humbled and ashamed of my lack of faith and grumbling heart.

This weekend we walked with our little ones at a local wildlife reserve. Joshua ran ahead most of the time, delighting in what was around him and excited to see what lay ahead. He had no reason to fear because we were with him.

It's an imperfect example, but remembering it, I want to have faith like a little child.

Sep 17, 2014

On turning thirty and remembering where I've been

Tomorrow is my birthday! It's a little crazy because I've hardly thought about age over the last few years (admittedly, I paid close attention to these numbers when I was single) and now all of the sudden I'm turning thirty tomorrow and I wonder how that can be because I feel like I should be turning twenty-seven or so! It's good though.

The babies are asleep and I just finished seeing my fiddle student out the door (a new venture!) and now I have candlelight and a cup of coffee and some quiet. My husband was hard at work on renovations all day and would like to spend time with me but he knows I get all introspective at the eve of new things or beginnings and I need to take this time to think some thoughts! :)

So, tonight I thought I would list a few things that my twenties have held. This has been such a decade of growth for me with many good and some difficult things. My journals will hold most of the latter secret but for fun here are some happenings of note that my twenties brought:

I attended Bible school seven hours away from home. I learned so much over this year...I loved studying and making new friendships and fellowshipping with Christians from all over the world. One of my roommates was from Korea and we whispered our way into many late nights and ate Korean hot sauce and noodles for snacks and laughed often until our sides hurt. We haven't kept close contact over the years but I am grateful for  Kendra, who I met during that year and who is one of my best friends today.
I held a variety of jobs: I worked at a call center. I worked as an administrative assistant for children's aid. Along with my sister, I started a housekeeping and senior care business. (The toilets weren't always fun to clean but I adopted several seniors as grandparents and enjoyed many a cup of coffee at a kitchen table along with stories and laughs.) I worked as a support worker in group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. I met many amazing people and was privileged to see some of God's beautiful purposes through their lives and challenges.
I took a long distance writing course. I am not a disciplined nor very talented writer but I still entertain dreams of someday having articles published and perhaps making some extra income as I stay at home to raise our children.
I began to blog and somehow (I don't remember which rabbit trail led to which) began to be interested in studying theology from a more reformed perspective. John Piper was a new name to me but his writings and others (and most specifically how they taught Scripture) opened up a much broader and more beautiful view of the Sovereignty and grace of God.
As a result of this God began to grow in me a new passion for the gospel and I joined an evangelism group that spent Friday evenings in the downtown of a city offering the good news to any willing to listen. Few things have made me feel more alive then telling other sinners and thirsty souls where I've found forgiveness and water and where they can too. 
Just when I was getting used to being single (and feeling pretty content) I met my husband through this ministry! We went from dating to marriage in less than ten months, and I'm not sure a day has went by that I haven't felt so grateful for God bringing us together.
I became mommy to Joshua and then Miriam, learning a love I couldn't have imagined. Parenthood is life-changing in so many joyous (and some challenging!) ways...it is such a gift to be a mother.

These are just a handful of things that come to mind as I look back over the last ten years. I'm more and more aware of how fleeting this earthly life really is... it is a precious thing to know I am in God's hands, that I belong to Him. I sin and fall short in many ways but He is so gracious to be patient with me and to have a purpose for my life and days.

With this in mind I step into this new decade with confident hope in Him!

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well. 
      (All the Way My Savior Leads Me, by Fanny Crosby) 

Sep 4, 2014

Activities for toddlers

This is one of the stages that I looked forward to so much before becoming a mom  - dreaming about being creative together and discovering the fun of paints and paper and glue.

My oldest is now 21 months and I want to make the most of these toddler and preschool years that are so short, to say yes to reading book after book and getting out the markers and paints and playing together.

Thinking about art projects or fun activities is something that excites me but at the same time I'm realizing that it takes intentionality, because it's often easier to just let our little people entertain themselves, isn't it? Especially when there are many other things we would like to get done. While I believe in the importance of independent play, I know I'm often guilty of being too distracted or focused on my own to-do's. There are lots of cuddles and love and needs being met over the course of a day, but not always focused time to do things together, or to facilitate trying new things.

One of my goals as we move into fall is to work on establishing a loose routine for our days, and part of this routine is to incorporate a fun or creative activity into most afternoons after naps are over. I think planning and then expecting this as a normal thing in our day will make it more likely to happen, but we'll see how it goes!

I placed an interlibrary loan request for The Toddler's Busybook but have also been perusing the internet for easy activity ideas, and there are a ton! Here are just a couple that we've tried in the last few days - I had fun playing along with him but these are also great things to set out when you need some space to prepare dinner or make a phone call.

Play-dough and wooden beads.  Both from the dollar store (My boy is great with not putting things into his mouth but if you're concerned you can supervise). Because I was feeling ambitious we worked on counting out beads and saying colors as we played - over his head but something to work towards. He surprised me with knowing where to push down the beads to make eyes and a nose on a face. Rolling play-dough balls and then squishing them to the table with your nose is optional. This activity entertained him for about forty-five minutes and then he announced "aaaall done". Plus I had fun and we laughed a lot together - success!

I hope this doesn't cause nightmares.

Pipe cleaners and containers with holes. Again, both from the dollar store. I guess the idea behind this is to encourage concentration and fine motor skills. The bright colors and bendy pipe cleaners make it fun. I plan on pulling this out once a week (or maybe more) to keep it interesting as it's a super simple thing to keep your toddler from wrapping himself around your leg or whining when you're trying to cook.

It's the inexpensive things they seem to like best, isn't it? I love this because it's easy to get into a rut and expect your toddler do the same old things every day but just a couple dollars or even free materials found around the house can change that!

I'm looking forward to collecting some other ideas for shared creative or independent play activities, if you have any please let me know!

Sep 1, 2014

Encouragement to pray

This year I've been making my way through Studies in the Sermon on the Mount which is actually a collection of sixty sermons preached by Martyn Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel in London from 1959-60. From this description you might think this compiled book tedious and dry (sixty sermons?), but that couldn't be farther from what I've found - his words are so full of insight and truth and pastoral care that I could easily wear out several highlighters if I wasn't wanting to keep my copy unmarked!

Here's a quote from his sermon on prayer that I found so encouraging this evening - my prayer life has not been what I desire and I am encouraged to remember what a privilege it is to call God my Father, to think on all this means, to go eagerly and expectantly to Him.

"...we must realize that we are in the presence of God. What does that mean? It means realization of something of who God is and what God is...We should say to ourselves: 'I am now entering into the audience chamber of that God, the almighty, the absolute, the eternal and great God with all His power and His might and majesty, that God who is a consuming fire, that God who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, that utter, absolute Holy God. That is what I am doing.' We must recollect and realize all that. But above all, our Lord insists that we should realize that, in addition to that, He is our Father...
If only we realized that this almighty God is our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. If only we realized that we are indeed His children and that whenever we pray it is like a child going to its father! He knows all about us; He knows our every need before we tell Him.

As the father cares for the child and looks at the child, and is concerned about the child, and anticipates the needs of the child, so is God with respect to all those who are in Christ Jesus.

He desires to bless us very much more than we desire to be blessed. He has a view of us, He has a plan and a program for us, He has an ambition for us, I say it with reverence, which transcends our highest thought and imagination. We must remember that He is our Father. The great, the holy, the almighty God is our Father. He cares for us. He has counted the very hairs of our head. He has said that nothing can happen to us apart from Him...

...when I pray I know that God is my Father, and that He delights to bless me, and that He is much more ready to give than I am to receive and that He is always concerned with my welfare. I must get rid of this thought that God is standing between me and my desires and that which is best for me. I must see God as my Father who has purchased my ultimate good in Christ, and is waiting to bless me with His own fullness in Christ Jesus."  (pp 308-309)