Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Confessions of an Abiding Mom Wannabe

A couple months ago, I came across a blog that posted 10 days of Homeschool Enrichment.  I printed it out and thought it would be a good exercise; after all, why not start out enriched?

As I expected, it was helpful in figuring out my "plan" in regards to homeschooling.  I love a good plan, a good checklist, a good map to lay out the journey.  Marc and I worked together to set up a written discipline plan to take the stress out of discipline (this has worked so well!).  I visioned the whys and whats, I prayerfully wrote a vision statement and attempted to lay out a general plan for each day.

What I did not expect was to be stopped dead in my tracks on day two, to find myself at a loss for words as I examined my own heart and fell in repentance before the Lord.  What I did not expect was this:
(*note for better viewing, please click on image and it will take you to the original blog post)

Guys, seriously, I sat in my easy chair in the corner of my bedroom in silence as I looked at this chart.  I long ago learned I am not a super mom and if asked, I would definitely say/have said that I was using the term tongue-in-cheek and had no such aspirations; but, as I read through her comparison of Super Mom vs. Abiding Mom, my heart sort of broke.  I had much to repent that day and daily every since.  How often my disposition is affected by the storms of life.  I want my kids to be godly, truly I do...and yet so often I am most concerned with them being "good".  My perspective is so often based on what is seen.  I  am discouraged by failure.  I expect perfection of myself.
I have to tell you, this was most convicting not because of my blog title (though let's be honest it was poetic justice), but because one of my favorite books ever is Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray.  I read it 17 years ago and knew I wanted my life to be marked by abiding.  Yet, when I saw this comparison laid out in this way I realized how self-sufficiency creeps into so many areas of my life and my motherhood.
I know the homeschool aspect of this journey is such a small piece, just a tool He is using at the moment.  God is graciously directing me to a new place with Him. In some ways perhaps I strayed a bit, but in most ways, I think He is always growing us, leading us, taking us into deeper intimacy with him.  That is what I ask Him for, and I believe He is answering in new ways, bringing me to a deeper level of dependence and surrender.  He is opening my eyes in new ways...Oh! that they would stay open to what He has to show me!
It is often said that in scripture and life, when something is repeated, it is important.  At the moment, I feel like God has been repeating or reinforcing the same message.  I better be getting it!  I just finished a short, little, recently published, former ebook, titled Teaching From Rest . It's a great quick read, that packs a powerful punch.  It's final section deals out homeschool suggestions, but I swear she should take it out and just publish it under "Parenting from Rest".  It is so good and reinforced what God has continued to whisper to my heart about simplicity, getting my agenda from Him, being present in the now....ABIDING.
"Before we attempt to live a day well, teach our children, or tackle our to-dos, first we put the whole thing at His feet.  We beg God to use us to fulfill His purpose, and then we see that every frustration in the day ahead is an answer to that very prayer."
Every frustration an answer to prayer?  How desperately I want to go through my days with that proper perspective:  to realize that everything that crosses my path is fulfilling HIS purposes, not mine.  That He is refining me and simultaneously using me to show His love and grace to my kids, to neighbors, to slow cashiers at Target, to the McDonalds attendant who gives me ice tea instead of coke....everything.
"Most of my own frustration comes from forgetting what my real task is in the first place.  He's called me to be faithful, yet I am determined to be successful."  Faithful looks so different that what the world tells us defines success.  He has asked me to be a good steward of my time, of my children, of my talents.  He hasn't asked ME to perform miracles, He's got that job sealed up lock, stock, and barrel.  He wants to be God and wants me to be...well, me;)  I just need to bring Him what I have, my proverbial  "Five loaves of bread and two fish", and HE will stretch it, expand it, and work miracles.
Marc and I have so clearly felt led to pull back, simplify, focus on relationships, to exchange busyness for rest and chaos for peace; yet almost every day I have to catch myself from adding more into our lives.  It is so hard to keep my eyes focused on what He has laid out for us; it's so easy to look around and fall trap to the comparison that kills contentment, peace, and joy.   I see so many things others are doing, so many GOOD things.  I know my kids could be speaking other languages, taking more classes, and obtaining more skills and sometimes when I hear others giving these things to their kids, I feel like maybe I am failing.  I feel like my kids are missing out.  I see people thriving in ministry and I start to question whether I am contributing enough; if I am honest, one of my BIGGEST struggles is wondering if OTHER people think I am doing enough.  I buy into the worlds deceitful definition of success.   I worry what man women think of me and my contributions to church, bible study, our neighborhood, friendships, our homeschool community.   I am prone to worry and yet all God has asked of me is to be faithful to what HE has called me to- not to what He called someone else to;)  When I look to the left or right, I find anxiety and discontent.  Yet, when I keep my eyes on Him, when I am abiding in Him?  That is where I find that indeed His yoke IS easy and His burden IS light.
"Jesus did not do it all.  Jesus didn't meet every need.  He left people waiting in line to be healed.  He left one town to preach to another.  He hid away to pray.  He got tired.  He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet.  He spent thirty years in training and only three years in ministry.  He did not try to do it all.  And yet, He did everything God asked Him to do." (Quote in this book from another one- Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.)

Hi my name is Kim and yes, I am a recovering successoholic and a former supermom wannabe; but He knows my name, my make up and my heart.  He calls me beloved daughter.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  In Him, I will abide.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Two Years of being complete

Two years ago today we completed our family.  Our precious son Christian came home FOREVER.

It's amazing to look back and see how he's grown.  It's hard to remember what our life was like before he was in it.  It's no secret, the kid is about as cute as they come.  I don't know if I've ever met a more photogenic child.  What you can't necessarily see in pictures are his sweet heart.  his silly spirit, or his generosity.  He has had to learn that adults are to be respected and obeyed.  He's put in lots of work learning to respect boundaries and though he has so much yet to learn, it's really amazing to stop and celebrate how much he has grown internally as well as externally.  The kid is WHIP smart.  He has always stunned us with his ability to communicate.  Even before he could speak English we were astounded at how well he could use motions to communicate his needs.  Now he speaks English so well, sometimes he stuns me with how well he can articulate his needs, feelings, or the description of a situation.  Sometimes I wonder if God hasn't gifted him specifically in this area to communicate God's love with others some day.  Christian struggles to respect boundaries, but he also rarely draws his own.  His is welcoming, affectionate, and seriously more generous than any kid I've ever known.  He is loving.  Anyone who knows him has been a recipient of his hugs.  Few people leave our house without receiving one.  Sure, sometimes he has trouble restraining himself when it isn't appropriate to express certain things and we are teaching him to reign in some of his emotions, but we pray we never stifle him;  the way he lives life with fullness is inspiring.  Every person in this family knows we are loved.  He runs into my room every single morning before doing anything else and gives me a giant hug and tells me "I love you, Mama."  He loves pizza so much that every time we have it delivered he hugs the unsuspecting delivery guy (sometimes I order pizza just to witness the hilarity of a 16 year old boy ringing our doorbell only to be immediately accosted by our little guy hugging him saying, "Pizza!  Thank you!"  It's a riot!)

Parenting him has stressed us beyond what I thought was possible.  God has taught me much about surrender.  Has taught me what it means to love even when it hurts.  Has taught me to push through moments of Christian's rejection and keep loving until he learned I was safe.  In the process I have learned more about the depth of God's unending, pursing, faithful love for me.

I am better for being Christian's mama.  Our family is better because he is in it.  Two years in, we are able to start seeing some of his healing.  We have settled into normality.  I feel like I am not just treading water, but on some days actually SWIMMING;)  We are seeing more and more beauty arrive from the ashes of loss for him.  He has some sensory issues and still has some anxiety that presents much like ADD in certain situations.  He'll have much more growth in his little life and I feel so privileged to be called his mother and be able to hold his hand through the difficulties and witness success.  He is just amazing.

Today we celebrated.  We call this "Family Day" because it is the day our family was completed.

We had Haitian food.  Rice and Beans, which are seriously amazing (that's what sautéing beans in bacon fat does to a recipe), Grilled Chicken, Plantains, and for dessert banana fritters (which aren't the prettiest, but they are AMAZING).

Yes, we are aware that the chicken is extra charred...we had a little fire in the grill and the sauce was fuel to the flame;)

Little man got to use a Haitian Map placemat and our "special day" plate.
Banana Fritters

Our sugar monster loved the Fritters best of all;P
What a difference two years makes!

2013 or 2015...the boy loves to look sharp;)



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yet again, I realize my Cup Overflows

This week we had our first homeschool community day.  We'll go once a week to kick off the work for the week ahead.  We have a short devotional time and then the kids split into smaller groups to get their memory work, do a science experiment, and an art project; we all gather back together to have lunch and recess.  In the afternoon, Ava and I attend a pretty intensive writing program.  Those are the facts in a brief overview.  I am having a more difficult time finding words to express the feels.
 Morning Meeting

 (just so you can see what they are staring at- I know you were a wonderin' ;)
 Phin putting his timeline cards in order
Little miss lovin' her class;)

I wrote in a previous post about the angst I had in making the decision to homeschool.  I shed tears; I lost a good deal of sleep.  It felt like God was asking too much.  I argued with God that I already give and give and give- why was he asking me for more?  Once the decision became clear, I did have a peace that this was what God had planned for us this year, but I also was daily having to give him my fears of the unknowns, my insecurities, my selfishness, and fears.  Now that we are in it- I feel like I am overwhelmed with a joy that is hard to articulate.  I am overwhelmed with God's provision in meeting needs that I didn't even know to express- needs I didn't necessarily know were needs at all.

We started math and reading three weeks before our community started.  We've had a great deal of fun and I have had so many moments of wondering what I was so afraid of?!!  Indeed, as I felt God telling my heart in the decision process, he has been restoring a joy to my motherhood that I have struggled to reclaim since adding a fourth kid and a autoimmune disorder;P  It's been lovely.  I have pondered many a thing in my heart over those three weeks:  I am more capable that I gave myself credit for.  I have really amazing friends, who know me and my kids well, that have given me really good advice in structuring our day and our curriculum in ways that flow with who we are as a family, with who I am as a mom.  I know I avoided many a pitfall because of their experience and loving advice.  God really does give us strength in our weakness, and help us embrace the way he's uniquely crafted us!  I have gotten the best of my kids each day instead of exhaustion.  I've been able to rejoice in seeing my kids learn new things! 

I was terrified of teaching Chloe to read.  What a cool thing to see her going from frustration to mastery with each phonetic sound.  We've done really fun art with our letters and we shook the heck out of a pint of cream while saying, "b-b-b-b-butter" til we were giddy with laughter and had sore arm muscles.

Phineas is sharp as a tack and loves to show off.  I've been able to get him excited about math using Skylander guys instead of counting bears.  We've added, subtracted, and sorted Skylanders and I love that he looks so forward to our one on one time.

Ava has performed just as I expected.  She is driven and self motivated and loves to learn.  She really wanted to study Revelation.  I thought it was crazy, but then I found a Kay Arthur precept study for kids and I LOVE that she is really learning to study the bible and we get to look up questions together.  I love reading aloud with her and finding out how much she already knows about so many things from her insatiable desire for books. 

Christian in going to preschool three days a week, but the other two days, we get to work on his sorely lacking fine motor skills and incorporate him into our learning time.  Instead of being a distraction, he is (on MOST days anyway) a delight to have along on the journey.

I am so pleased with our homeschooling decision;  the joy of the first three weeks felt like gift enough.  Truly the way I am wired, lends to stressful moments trying to get kids to school and keep up with each teachers requirements.   The reprieve really has released me of much of that stress and is therefore beneficial to my littles!  All of that would have been MORE than enough, but God loves to show off.  We had community day and I left in tears- joyful tears.  It was so much fun.  A few moms are paid tutors to kick of the weeks memory work and I was so humbled by how much work they put into it.  Phin is in a class of ALL boys and his tutor had them learn while doing obstacle courses.  They were engaged and had a great time. Chloe was glowing.  What really set my heart aflame, however, was the afternoon of writing class with Ava.  First, it's really special to have a room of mamas and daughters working together.   Second, I have NEVER seen Ava so comfortable with a group of people in a school setting since preschool and it was DAY ONE.  She just fits.  They girls all get along so well.  There is kindness and laughter and joy.  I could see clearly see God putting her in a place that takes away the anxiety she is naturally prone to.  She is an overachiever and she already over achieves.  This is a one room school philosophy and they went over that with the girls, so it's just about working together and embracing strengths and that they are each at different level and it is OKAY.  There is no competition.  She had a hard time shaking the "new girl" label when we moved here- NOT because of other children (at all!) but because she labeled herself as "new" and "outside".  It took a year and other new kids coming to work through it;)  It was lovely to see her growth and rejection of that label.  Instead she labeled herself "friend" and made plenty. 

Ava's new compadres

And you guys!  Can I tell you about the other mamas?  I LIKE them..a lot.  I totally have a gazillion friendship crushes.  I think they are some lifelong friends in this group.  I cannot wait to get to know them better!

I am not obtuse to hard days ahead.  Yet,I am challenged by unconscious ways I define God when he asks me to step out of my comfort zone.  Why do I automatically assume it is going to be horrible?  There are times he calls us to hard things, but he also grows us for our GOOD.  He is my father who wants GOOD things for me...and yet in moments of change, I realize I have some room to grow in the area of TRUST.  He is always faithful.  He carries me when it's hard.  Why is it so hard to trust?!  Once again, he has blown my mind.  His ways are so much higher than mine.  Yes, on the surface, I have almost zero "me" time (I do have some- don't worry;), but he's restored a part of my spirit that means infinitely more than a couple extra hours of reading or rest.  I feel like I opened a gift of more time with my children in these really fleeting years.  Ava daily asks me to please not just homeschool for a year but forever (I always tell her we will do each year what God leads us to do:).  Phin says he loves homeschool but can we have more boys (the answer is "no").  Chloe doesn't know much different but is just blossoming.

*I just want to reiterate again in this blog post, that this is more about being where God wants us than homeschool itself.  I do not believe homeschooling is the only way.  I know mamas in public school, private school, and homeschool whose families are just where God wants them!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Starting this Homeschool ShinDig

Okay- I don't really know how to homeschool, but tomorrow we start math and reading.  I've prepared as much as I can, but I still feel like I am jumping off a cliff tomorrow!  I am filled with nervous anticipation and excitement.

One thing I got right, I think, I redid our office this week.  Last Sunday it had dark green walls with Marc's sword collection and our college diploma's.  I did some painting, spray painting, clearance shopping  and such.  I am so happy with the finished product.  We have a happy room, I hope it foreshadows many happy moments.




Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bridal Shower Devotional for my Sweet Friend

Recently (and by recently, I mean May) I was asked to give the devotional at the bridal shower of a sweet friend.  I was honored, she is a dear girl who has babysat for my children and whom we love like family.  I was very humbled that I was asked after the shower by a couple different attendees to post a copy of the devotional on my blog.  More humbly still, I was reminded that I hadn't done it yet.  Humbled, I post it know, knowing my words are inadequate but that God's truth is in them still.
I am so passionate about marriage.  I feel so blessed by the man God has in my life and so grateful for the ways God has molded and refined us, grown us and humbled us, and carried us through difficult times.  Sitting down to prepare a short devotional was difficult.  There is so much I wanted to share with a new bride- I've learned so much in 15 years, and I know I have so much yet to learn.  I prayed for clarity and God's leading.  This is what he laid on my heart for my sweet friend.

J, you've spend a great deal of time dreaming of marriage and of the perfect wedding day.  I know it will be beautiful, but as you spend the next few weeks finishing up the preparations, I challenge you to purpose to spend double the amount of time meditating on the vows you are about to make.

I know you understand the biblical importance of covenant, so I will just briefly remind you today.  Covenant comes from a Hebrew word and is an agreement that brings with it a sense of cutting, a pact made between passing of flesh.  It involved blood and was a solemn and binding agreement relationship meant to last a lifetime.  In the Old Testament an animal would literally be cut in half and the agreeing parties would walk between the two halves saying, "Cut me in half if I break this covenant."  In today's traditional wedding, the center aisle between two families is a symbol of this.

Marriage is often referred to as the highest covenant because it is not just a covenant between man and woman but is simultaneously a covenant between the couple and God.

It is not just a contract as our society would have you believe. 

-A Covenant is base on trust.  A contract is based on distrust.
-A Covenant is based on unlimited responsibility.  A contract is based on limited liability.

-A Covenant is lifelong and not to be broken.  A contract can be broken by mutual consent.

You are not entering into a marriage contract, you are entering in to a marriage covenant.  Your responsibility to that covenant is unlimited.

Traditional vows have some variation of 6 basic parts.
1) "I will love you as long as I live"- signifying kindness and self sacrifice
2) "I will honor you"- signifying thoughtfulness, attentiveness and respect
3)  "I will be to you what a wife (or husband) ought to be to a spouse"- signifying doing your part to meet your spouses needs
4)  "I will take you as you are" - signifying acceptance
5)  "I will forsake all others"- signifying faithfulness
6)  "I will do all this for better or worse, in sickness or in health, whether rich or poor...." -signifying the unconditional nature of the covenant

J, I don't know if you guys are writing your own vows or if you will chose some written for you, but I challenge you to make this the most thoughtful part of your ceremony and rehearse them until they are burned into your brain and onto your heart.

Your tastes will change, and while you will always look back fondly upon your choice of flowers and dress, ten years from now you'd have chosen differently.  What will not change are your vows.

People have told you marriage is hard.  People will offer you myriad different pieces of wonderful advice.  It is all head knowledge now.  It will mean infinitely more to you as time goes on and you "get" what people mean by hard times.

I hated people saying that a day may come when you'll question whether you chose the right spouse or you'll wish you weren't married or that your situation was different.  J, I can honestly tell you that for me those times have been very, very few.  (They usually had more to do with my own sinful heart that deficits in Marc.)  But what I do want you to know is that when you really are "in worse" it usually doesn't have much to do with sickness or poverty.  It usually happens when your spouse has hurt you deeper than you've ever been hurt.  Love may feel farther away than you ever  thought possible and yet you will stay and you will chose to love and serve and honor because you have entered into covenant to do just that.  At times, it may be the covenant alone that keeps you going, but J, God does amazing things when we honor our covenants!  I can testify to you that he makes beauty from ashes, and though times love will something that yes is a choice and not a feeling.  God honors that choice and you get through the hard times and the feelings and intimacy are deeper on the other side.

You are about to get married and learn just how selfish you are.  It's eye opening to truly realize what it means to lay down your life.  It is easy to say and yet painful and costly to do.  You will learn what it means to forgive 70x7; even harder, you will learn how deeply you can hurt another human being and how hard it is to humbly accept forgiveness.

There is only one way to be a successful wife, J, you must be a woman of the Word, filled with the Spirit. 

Be a woman of the Word and don't write the Word of God solely on you mind, engrave it upon your heart. 
-Luke 6:45 says, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  Girl, your mouth can make or break your marriage; it can build up or tear down your spouse.  Keep your heart clean of unforgiveness and bitterness.  Keep bringing your heart before the Father so our of it's abundance comes beauty.
-Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love to talk will reap it's fruit."  Your words will bring life or death to your husbands very heart and soul.  Sow words that are life giving to him!
-And let's not forget what wise Ol' Solomon wrote to his son:
  • Proverbs 25:24- "It is better to live on the corner of a roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
  • Proverbs 21:19- "Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife."
  • Proverbs 19:13- "A quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof."
  • Proverbs 27:15- "A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm."'
Think about all that.  It is better to life ON THE CORNER of the ROOF than with a quarrelsome wife.  On the corner, mind you, where you are off balance and unsteady.  On the ROOF, where you are exposed to all the elements nature throws at you.  It is better to live a DESERT- parched, dry, lacking any signs of lush life.  And this dripping thing?  Maybe that's hard to relate to as Americans because who among us has endured a constant dripping roof?  I once heard this compared to a dripping nose, so I pass this little wise illustration to you, dear friend.  Think of when you have a constant drippy nose.  You can turn your head or move with out the annoyance of the drip.  You have to wipe it so often, your nose gets so red and irritated that you look like Rudolph.  It's embarrassing socially.  It's uncomfortable at all times.   You go to bed desperately hoping for relief in the morning only to wake up and find your drippy nose is still with you.  Dear friend, do not be a wife that is constantly nagging N.  Don't have him desperately wipe you aside only to find himself more irritated when you return.  Don't let the way you speak to him be embarrassing socially.  Don't let him go to bed just hoping you'll be different in the morning only to find the same nagging wife still resides.  No one wants a drippy nose or a nagging wife. Period.

Speak to N words that build him up.  Accept him as he is.  Don't focus on what he needs to change- it tears him down, frustrates you, and gets you NO WHERE.   Sit before God and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how YOU need to change.  Walk in the Spirit.  Be being filled with the Spirit and not yourself, not good intentions, not false ideals of what a perfect husband or marriage looks like.  Be honest in communication and don't fail to communicate your needs, but bring them before God FIRST and let him lead.

Finally, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT look at others.  Comparison is in my opinion, the death of women.   Psalm 16:5 says, "Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure."  We are given what we need for security, when we start going off trying to obtain someone else's portion, trying to paint our cup to resemble their cup, things doing work and insecurity abounds.  Do not compare N to other men.  Trust the mistakes of married women here when we tell you- DO NOT DO IT.  God did not assign you those men, he gave you N.  Be content with the man God has gifted you.  Do not look at other woman's lives and circumstance and wish you had them, live life God gave you. Finally, do not compare yourself to other women and feel less than, be content person he made YOU, let him mold and make you into the beauty he has planned.  Comparison kills. 

Life isn't a fairy tale, it is a journey.  Marriage will have many happy moments.  I think you know how genuinely happy I am in my marriage, how deeply I am loved, and how much I love my hubs.  But I want to remind you that the aim of marriage isn't your happiness it is God's glory.  If you seek happiness alone, selfishness will overtake you and you'll find yourself farther from happiness than you ever thought possible.  Focus on your vows and honoring the God who you are making a covenant to.  Spend your life walking in the Spirit, living by the nourishment of God's word.  Marriage will not be what you dream, J, but if you submit to God's plan for you and live for his glory, I promise you, it will be far greater.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Leap of Faith- Part two

As we began to look at stress in our life, I was once again humbled.  I just don't seem to be able to handle things other moms can.  Busyness stresses me out- like REALLY stresses me out.

We purposefully have kept our kids activities to a minimum.  We do very little by comparison and I realized I often feel guilty because the little we do sometimes feels like too much.  Though logically I know better, I constantly battle against what culture pushes on us.  Are my kids missing out?  I know in my head that activities alone aren't what's best for kids, that we want our kids to play and imagine and have free space in their lives to just be kids, but when few around us seem to be doing that, I find myself feeling like my kids are missing out.

This summer though we knew we just couldn't, I haven't felt well enough.  So, our kids went to VBS and one week of theater camp.  Chloe is taking three gymnastic classes this month and Phin tried basketball on Friday mornings for a month.  That was plenty.  We've spent time at the pool, played, they've Konmaried with me.  We're happy, we have more energy for others! 

We read a book by Archibald Hart called Stress and Your Child.  Hands down the most helpful book I've read in a long time.  We have a kid with psoriasis.  She has stress.  As we looked at simplifying our lives, we wanted to decrease stress for everyone, compare ourselves to no one.  It's easy to look at others and say, "well, they are busier so we must be fine".  We just asked God to show us what was best in this season.  We laid our entire lives before him in surrender.

Our two most stressful times of day are bedtime and morning during the school year.  Every holiday and summer break, I dread the return to school.  We've gone to a private school 20 min. away.  Marc works 45 min. away in the opposite direction.  I have to leave the house with four kids fed and ready to go by 7:30am.  Because of this we try to do bedtime early, starting 7-730pm.  Marc gets home at 615.  Trying to fit in dinner and dad time, is crazy.  We try to make it calm.  Eating and rushing to bed when you haven't seen dad all day is just hard for kids.

Homeschool was put on the table.  I didn't want it on the table.  It's too hard.  I don't know how to do it.  I am supposed to be decreasing my stress not adding things to my plate.  Yet with time and tears and prayers and research God began to reveal that this was the path for us. 

As I journaled, I began to realize I DID have dreams of motherhood that I am not fulfilling.  During the school year, it's hard for me to help with homework and teach kiddos anything about cooking or caring for the house.  Family devos are rushed or pushed aside.  I started journaling what was appealing about the silly Christian fiction books I'd been escaping to- it came down to SIMPLICITY.  I love reading about settlers.  I realized how much I love the idea of families working and being together.  I WANT to teach my kids to cook and care for the house.  I want to work more again as a family, to play more, not just on summer break and vacations.  Ava is nine and I feel behind on what I think she is capable of learning to do.  I still have some fear, after all, I have never done this.  But as we have prayed, I really feel like God is going to help me become the mom and have the home I dream of having.  I realize I do have more dreams for us...and I don't have to ignore them. 

This decision is scary for me.  I like safe, sure decisions.  This feels anything but safe and sure and yet the more time that passes the more excited I feel for the journey ahead.  So we are jumping into this unknown...

I am now a homeschooling mother. 

I am now a homeschooling mother!  I still cannot believe it and yet I have not felt this excited and joyful in a long time.  I am facing fears about my own inability and trusting God's provision.  The kids are excited.  Marc is excited.  It feels like we have been fighting for two years to stay out of the fast lane of the expressway here and it's like God just pointed us to exit the road all together right now.

We don't know anything past this year, we just feel like God is calling us to a season of rest.  I am looking for someone to help me a couple days a week so I can focus on school.  We will be doing little else but school.  We found a homeschool community nearby and are excited to start Classical Conversations with them.  I am still figuring out our schedule and trying to leave it fluid enough to learn.  We'll be starting in Sept. and I plan on spending the month freezing extra meals with the kids to have them on hand.  We'll be taking every Friday as a catch up or field trip day.  I have many friends who homeschool and I know there will be really hard moments; we also know there will be joyous ones.  I am so thankful for their advice and authenticity as I prepare.

Marc is putting new boundaries on his work.  He was promoted in April and has a great job, but it will suck the life out of him before we know it.  So he is prayerfully asking God for wisdom in balance.

I want to be very clear that we are confident that this is where God is calling us right now.  We do not think this is the only way.  We do not think this is the only right way.  We LOVED the kids school and the teachers there.  Nothing was broken except it's not a fit for us right now.  The school itself is great.  Our neighborhood school is great, as well, we just didn't feel like public education is where God would have our kids right now.  We DO know God has built each of us differently.  I am so thankful for the mom who are rocking activities, rocking public school, rocking private school, and rocking the crazy various methods of homeschool out there.

This is our leap of faith.  This is my freefall.  I cannot even express the utter amazement I feel over the fact that we actually jumped!  I really believe though there will be many more moments where I feel unsafe, where I feel afraid or incapable, that as we seek the Lord, we will fly.

Leap of Faith- Part 1

In the spring, I read a book called Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons.  For reasons I could not articulate, I cried through much of the book.  I didn't expect too.  I couldn't even decipher why?  She talks about fear and surrendering to God's call for your life.   I really felt like God was preparing me for something but I had no idea what it could be.  I ordered the journal and began a somewhat frustrating few months of trying to decipher what I was missing.

In the book and journal, she takes you through identifying neglected dreams.  I couldn't find any.  I tried.  I literally asked myself everything I could think of: "Do I wish I'd pursued music?", "Do I want to go back to work?", "Should I pursue a job dealing with adoption or Haiti? (passions of mine)"  Nothing resonated.  Nothing felt right or nothing felt like a dream neglected.  I certainly didn't have obvious discontent with my life or feel like I'd neglected something God wrote up on my heart.  Still the nagging nudge that God was preparing me for change continued.

I was uncomfortable with the nudge.  instead of dreams surfacing, fears began to run rampant.  I had to confront fear about moving again (I think I am still having some PTSD from moving two years ago and then the immediate transition to child number four!).  I began to worry He'd  ask us to have more children and I am barely hanging on with the four I have;)  Why is it that we always assume God is going to make us live our nightmare?  I started out exploring if I had neglected dreams and ended up assuming God was going to push me into the worse things I could imagine.   The unknown, unsettled feeling was a bit overwhelming.  Looking back now, I can see I felt so overwhelmed by it, I just shut off.

I found myself reading ALL the time.  That seems like a healthy hobby.  It's a socially acceptable form of escape and yet I knew I was escaping ALL the time.  Nothing in my reality is inherently bad, I just felt overwhelmed.  I was shutting off to God and truly to my kids, if I am honest.  They were stressful so I was pulling back emotionally.  Funny, how we've never talked about it, but they knew.  They were acting out, desperate for my attention.  We'd have good days.  Days I felt alive again and then I'd feel that nudge in my quiet time with God and I'd find myself retreating to the safety of fiction book in my kindle, to fictional worlds with predictable, always happy endings.

I knew something was off and the Holy Spirit was nudging me, drawing me gently, reminding me that God is a God of love and grace.  I knew I was letting the enemy deter me from whatever God's plans were and I know his plans are for my benefit.

Simultaneously, this has all be complicated by my struggle with Hashimoto's disease.  I was diagnosed last Sept. and I have had some times I have felt good, but it's been a struggle.  I knew what I was feeling was not all just emotional and spiritual.  This is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid.  I gained 8 lbs in 5 weeks between April and May.  Sure, I was eating a bit of sugar but nothing crazy, this was obviously physical proof the thyroid isn't functioning, that my meds weren't right.  It can feel almost like a depression and the exhaustion is something I can hardly find words to describe.  When it's bad, I feel like I can barely lift my arms and legs.  I knew I had to return to the doctor.  Four kids really ARE too much when you can't find the energy to get downstairs;) 

I just felt God call me to pursue him despite my fear and to take care of myself so whenever he revealed whatever this unknown was, I would be ready.  I joined weight watchers to help lose the weight cuz it's hard without a normal thyroid and I know progress will be slow, so I knew I needed support.  That step was life changing for me.  I cried going in and leaving.  It was so humbling.  I realized how terrible I am at admitting I need help.  T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.  Let me just tell you, now its the highlight of my week.  It's fun, the ladies are awesome and I feel encouraged every week in just taking steps to take care of me.

I started purging and organizing the house using the Konmari method.  Again, just life changing to get rid of anything that doesn't add joy to our lives.  Simplicty, freedom from clutter.  I felt like I was getting rid of physical, emotional, and spiritual clutter all at the same time.  My heart felt decluttered, as did my mind.  I found myself able to enjoy stillness and trust God with the discomfort.

I found a new doctor.  I'd started having migraines that were unspeakable painful and that affected by vision (temporarily when having them, nothing permanent).  The underlying disease process has worsened over the year (the antibodies attacking my thyroid have increased 200%)  She increased my medicine and has made me go gluten free.  Again, tears.  Who knew giving up Dunkin Donuts and Panera triple berry scones was so emotional;)  I prayed.  God is good.  It's been four weeks and barely a struggle.  I never had digestive issues, so I don't feel any differently so I'm so grateful it's not been a struggle.  She said it's worth a try; it sure is.  I have four kids- that's my incentive. 

She also said to manage stress.

That visit began our journey of how we can more effectively manage stress and it's been the journey that showed the elusive unknown.  It's been a journey of confronting fears and we finally decided to jump.  This is my free fall....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thankful for each moment

Last week on vacation, we had quite a scare.  Our little man followed his big brother and sister toward the deep end of the pool.  They had no idea he was following them.  I saw him head after them from my lawn chair and I immediately got up to bring him his arm floaties.  I called, he didn't hear me.  By the time I got to the side of the pool, I saw him panic and go under right before my eyes.  I've read kids drown silently and now I know exactly what that means.  I literally saw him reach the point where he was over his head, he bobbed up with the most panic look on his face as he realized there was no one near to help and he just went almost flaccid and went under.  There was no call for help, no frantic splashing. I jumped in immediately of course and pulled him out.  He was fine; there was not even choking or gagging.  He's been in swim lessons for over a year and he held his breath instinctually as he went under.  He's been taught to reach for the side if he falls in, infact, he actually had enough ability to swim there, but he didn't have the confidence and he absolutely panicked and frozen.  I grabbed him right out, He clung to me and cried.  It was so frightning, we had to tackle some fear to get back in the water.  I don't think he'll go out after the older kids again.

I had nightmares all week.  What if I'd waited just a little longer to get up? He'd been told not to go past a certain point, what if I waited to see if he'd obey and turn around?  What if I was reading and missed seeing it all together?  I am one hundred percent confident that God prompted me to get up immediately.  I literally got there with no time to spare.  I just couldn't shake what a close call we endured.

I realized one morning after many restless nights and bad dreams, I had to release my fear.  It was consuming my nights and any quiet moment.  I just kept seeing the panicked look on his face and the way he just went under so quickly.  The truth is though that there are probably a million close calls with my kids that I am unaware of.  God is so gracious in his protection.  He sees things I miss ALL the time.  I am imperfect and there are plenty of times I am too laid back about things, plenty of times I DO wait just a moment before acting.  Each day I have with my children is not evidence of my awesome protection but God's.  I had to sit before him and surrender my fear and the what if's.  I cannot protect my children all the time.  I'll miss things.  It's the awareness of my own weakness and inability that ultimately was paralyzing me.  I had to recognize that God DID prompt me to get up immediately.  He DID protect Christian.  I fail daily and no matter how hypervigilent I become, no matter how much sleep I lose, or how many scenarios I prepare for, I may still fail, because I am human.  They have plenty of cuts and bruises to prove that!  I have to surrender and trust my kids to God.  I have to trust him with me.  I have to trust that even if something ever does happen to my kids  or to me or Marc(entirely possible as we live in a world with a gazillion and one dangers), he'll be enough.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.  Death and pain are no respector of age or ability. I can live my life paralyzed by what if's or release them and rejoice in what is.  I can waste moments with them frantically fearfully or embrace the gift of each day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ava's Spy Birthday

Ava turned 9!  She really wanted to Spy birthday party this year.  Initially she picked that theme thinking it could include boys and girls but as we set out a guest list, I quickly realized to have fun, we needed to pare things down.  She agonized over having to chose classmates, but alas, we need to start realizing we can't have 40 kids at every birthday party;)  With a guest list of 10 finalized, I had a blast putting together a Spy Mission thanks to some great ideas on pinterest and a little of my own imagination.

While my sister usually designs my invitations, I went with an ETSY shop this year because she already did such a fun job of putting this spy party package together.  The invitations were personalized for each girl.  I had such a fun time coming up with every one's spy name and a secret password for entry.

The kids had to say the secret password (Ava is a Spy Kid) that they had deciphered from the invitation.  Then we used a hand scanning app and had then state their spy name.  The app can be set to say "truth" or "lie" we had it confirm "true" that they were who they said they were.  We made sure to have it say "lie" with my parents and sister, which the girls enjoyed watching;)

Once confirmed, each girl was given their lanyard with name tag and had their finger prints taken.  They then sat down at the table at Mission Headquarters and I had Spy Themed Mad Libs for them to work on until everyone arrived.  I don't think anyone of them had done Mad Libs before, but once they figured it out, we had some pretty hilarious Spy stories to share with one another.

I then explained pulled out a file marked Confidential and read our Mission to them:  "Last night a top secret love potion was stolen from a science lab in Washington DC.  This potion makes boys girl crazy and girls boy crazy.  Our intelligence indicates that the criminals currently in possession of this potion intend to begin making large quantities of it and plan to give it to girls everywhere, age 8-10, to make them boy crazy.  We mus find the vial of love potion and destroy it so girls everywhere can just enjoy being little girls.  You will be trained especially for this mission."

They all agreed to accept the mission so we went into the "outfitting room" to dress up in our spy attire.  I had a black T-shirt, black hat, and black sun glasses for each girl.

They were informed that their training would be done by expert field agents Marc (code name: Mr. X) and myself (codename: BigMama).  We went outside for step 1: Physical Training and Agility

They were deemed able to successfully disarm their opponent physically and agile enough to maneuver around lasers.  They were ready for Step 2: weapons training.
They had to first learn weapon assembly.  You cannot travel around the world with a weapon after all!  They needed to assemble them and personalize them according the the instructions.
Once assembled they received their bag of ammunition (mini marshmallows)

We went over how to use the gun and we received our next piece of intelligence. "Headquarters has received intelligence indicating that the suspects have hidden the love serum near this very headquarters.  The suspects believe we will look around the world, so they chose to hide it close by in effort to deceive us.  You have been well trained for today's mission.
Our sources tell us there is a young weapons dealer with information as to the serum whereabouts.  We are told he plays regularly in the yard in front of headquarters.  Bring your weapons loaded and ready for battle.  He will not give up information easily and is never found alone."

 Phin, Christian and some younger brothers of other party attenders were waiting and ready for the marshmallow battle.

I think I saw as many marshmallows consumed as were shot...

Turns out the young weapons dealer was just protecting his grandfather, who had the clue we were looking for!  "The serum may be found underground.  Access to this area is through a door said to be located near an electric piano.  Be prepared to disarm a body guard and navigate lasers and bombs. Rumor is that a bomb guards the details of the serums secure location.  Birthday Girl (Ava's codename) will be beneficial in deciphering this clue because of her in depth knowledge of the area surrounding headquarters.  Be safe and Good luck"

 Because of his vast experience with explosives, Mr. X accompanied them on this part of the mission.  

They each had to give two punches or one punch and one kick to this robotic body guard (otherwise known as a stationary punching bag that Marc uses for his morning work outs;)

The laser maze was a git.  Marc and I used white yarn and black lights that they had to navigate to get through to a ton of bombs.

The black balloon bombs had to be popped to be disabled.  All of the contained red foil shreds except one, which contained the final clue.

The final clue red.  "The serum is blanketed where Old Money sleeps."

 It took Ava a minute but she figured out the "Old Money" was indeed referring to our dog.  When we rescued him last may his name was "Money" and we changed it to Ollie.  She got to excited and up the stairs our little spys ran.

Indeed, the serum was confiscated from where it was hidden in the blanket within our dog's crate.


Our little spies had worked up their appetites so we ate;)

Our water was "truth serum", we had magnifying glasses made from round cheese slices and pretzel sticks, baby bombs made from mini donuts and Twizzlers, detective dogs (mini pigs in the blanket), energizers (fruit and veggie trays), explosives (Cheetos), on the Trail Mix, Invisibility tablets (Mike n Ike's), and secret messages hidden in Jello (girl power messages like "Be yourself, no body does it better", "You are beautiful", "Kindness is what makes one beautiful", "Be your adventurous, courageous, wonderful self every single day"  cuz these little girls get enough negative messages;)

Then was the cake.  Ava wanted Ice cream cake and I wanted to do a miraculously it worked!  I lined a bowl in saran wrap and layered in an ice cream cake.  When well frozen in the bowl, I turned it out and set it on my cooling wrack.  I took three bottles of Magic Shell and emptied them into a smaller bowl and then dumped it all on the cake at once.  I had a mess under my cooling wrack as expected but it worked!  I had my bomb!  I froze giant marshmallow and dipped it in magic shell for the top of the bomb and then instead of a candle we used a sparkler! (Thanks, Bobbi, for having sparklers around your house in March!:)

Full disclosure...this beast was hard to cut, had to get out the electric knife and use my husbands muscles;)  But it tasted AWESOME;)  Cookie dought ice cream, then layer of fudge, then chocolate cupcake ice cream, then layer of Oreo Crumbs mixed with chocolate syrup, then vanilla ice cream...I mean it was "DA BOMB" (I am so punny!)

 Our little spies are a great group of girls from different walks in Ava's life and they blended together with ease.  They are all a bunch of sweethearts and I feel grateful they are in her life.

Mission Completed: 9th birthday of my sweet girl celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed.  Her heart was full and that makes this mama smile.  She is the most grateful little gem and I am so proud of her and honored that she is mine.

Happy Birthday to the little girl who made me a mama and brightens each and everyday of our lives with love, creativity, and intelligence.  I don't know what you'll grow up to be...but I know you'll only continue to brighten the world.

*Thanks to Roxanne Engstrom for some of these pic's (probably everyone you think has good lighting is hers;)