Monday, June 11, 2018

Light

By Mary

"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

It was something of a shock, moving to a Pacific Northwest winter from the coastal Carolina ones I'd become accustomed to. The change in temperature was welcome-I could actually wear these winter jackets and things I've had lying around for years! And really there was far less rain here than I anticipated. I had decided in advance we'd just have to figure out how to live like ducks and do everything in a continual drizzle. That hasn't been the case. (Coincidentally, I've read that both Chicago and New York get more rain annually on average than Seattle. Really!)

What has gotten to me are the cloudy skies. It might not be raining all the time, but overhead still seems so overcast. so. much. After one wintertime phone call with Alanna, having commiserated over the lack of sunshine in our new cities, I got to thinking about that verse, John 8:12. And several others, really. Ones about God being light, our light, ones about how we should be light. I'd never put much thought into the richness of light. It shows you the way, yes, it illuminates. But it also inspires. It motivates. It brings warmth. It beautifies. Nothing feels better than to sit in the sunlight when you've been battling sickness. It's restful, peaceful.

So while I'm still going to be wishing for plenty of sunny days during our time in Washington, I'm grateful for the reminder of all that God's light is to me-and of what He wants me to be.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Monday, May 21, 2018

another birthday

by Alanna

Yesterday was his birthday. The son of my heart, 9 years old and I'm not sure where all those years went. Did I meet him that long ago? We celebrated someone else's birthday at our small group, with brownies and ice cream. And I ate mine in celebration of my precious little one, not so little now. I don't shed tears anymore for him, because the sorrow in me is a distant ache for what I lost. I've gained so much more. I treasured moments yesterday, because through him God taught me that time is precious and I ought to spend every day loving with all of me. I remember counting down days in South Africa, the time before I had to say goodbye. But none of us really knows how many days we get with our children. Today could be the last. And even if we're given years, they fly so fast. I am struggling these days with being a parent, with the lie that I am not enough, and the bigger lie that I have to be. Yesterday reminded me that children are given to be surrendered. Not given to be held on to or hoarded or parented perfectly right. They are given by a good God to be surrendered, back into His heart. He loves them more than I ever could. He is enough. Enough for all the times I fail them. Enough to grow them into just who He wants them to be. Enough to guide them to the place He wants them. Enough to protect them. Enough to heal them. I know from experience that He was all these things for my first son. But in the daily I forget. Oh so quickly I forget. In some ways I want to live as if my children are an ocean away. Lots more praying, because you pray a lot when praying is all you can do.  Lots more trusting Jesus instead of depending on my own efforts to save them.  Even with all the crazy, every morning when I walk into their room I am astounded at the grace I've been given. I am the lucky one, to get them out of bed in the mornings. The one they want when they call "mama" in the night. I don't deserve these beautiful gifts, not at all. Nor do I know how to steward these gifts well. But God knows each child He has given me. The one of my heart, who is loved so well now in his own family. The three I can see and touch who live in my house. And the one inside of me kicking now.  God is powerful and trustworthy to care for them all. Lord, help me to hold them only ever in open hands.  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April in Minnesota

by Alanna

Trying to do things that are good for me, on days that are cloudy and cold. My husband was working at home so I left our youngest sleeping and took the two "big kids" to a close park. Here's some pictures, documenting thanks giving.


 Isabella was so brave, going down these huge slides!






Samuel wasn't so sure about the big slides, but he had fun on the smaller things.




 Isabella found this perfect circle of ice.





Which Samuel tried to lick....

We went home, dancing in the car to Ellie Holcomb music and made sunshine snacks with apples and yogurt. If the sun won't shine in April we have to seek harder for gifts. But they are definitely here! =) 



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

words and heart change

by Alanna

I'm reading in James 3, and as usual convicted by my lack of self-control in the things I say. This time I am seeing something new too. I always believed that my thoughts and attitude were the problem. That if I didn't think so negatively, it wouldn't flow out into complaints. I think this is partly true, but also true that the things we say affect our hearts. I think this is especially true for people like me, who tend to speak before we think. I can feel pretty happy and thankful about life, and still speak negative things. Those complaints affect not just the people around me, but my own heart. 

"Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things."
 -James 3:4-5. 
I am asking God to change my habits. That I would speak thanksgiving out loud, speak things of joy and building up. I think that words have power, to change not just the people and world around us, but our own mindset and attitude. I want to give thanks. To speak well of my family to my family. To control my mouth.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

spring

by Alanna

   I saw a man tidying outside his shop today, in shorts and a t-shirt. And I smiled because I think that, despite highs in the 30s and mountains of snow everywhere, spring is coming to Minneapolis. Somehow I think I expected it to come all at once, that the snow would disappear and trees would burst into life. I expect this of us too. That I will wake up one day to discover that my old sins are conquered, that I don't yell at my children or give in to despondency and hopelessness. I expect it of my family too. I long for it- sudden transformation. Winter gone without a trace. But it is not how spring arrives, and not how God seems to work in our hearts.  This slow changing is beautiful, but it is agonizing too. So I ask God for patience, and eyes to see the beauty in the changes all around me. My daughter asked twice lately, "Mom, why do those yards have grass?" Muddy though it looks, it's alive and no longer buried under white, and I'm thankful for this. I'm thankful for sunshine I can feel, for not having to put snow pants on the kids every time we walk out the door. I'm thankful for growth in our family too. That it's not hard for me to take my three tots to the mall by myself, because they listen well and don't throw fits when it's time to go.  That I am quicker to kneel when I am struggling, to tell my kids how much we all need Jesus. That we communicate better and more and that this is binding our marriage stronger.  I want to rejoice in this slow transformation. And someday....

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet....we shall be changed."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

gifts

by Alanna

I originally titled this post "winter blues" and thought I'd write about all the ways the Minnesota winter may feed the fuel of my late struggles with depression.  But I am on a mission to change my thinking, to change my words, to change my heart. Not that I believe that speaking differently will guarantee the darkness not to return. But I am inspired tonight to battle against despondency ("a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage" says google.) So I will ask God for these things- hope and courage. And I will write about His faithfulness.

Here are a few ways He has blessed me this week.
1. My dad called on Monday, after one of the scariest and hardest weekends I can remember having emotionally. I don't know why he always calls after I've had a bad day, but he does. And I'm so thankful for him.
2. God answered prayers to take away nightmares.
3. A kind neighbor warned us to move our car so it wouldn't get towed during a "snow emergency" day.
4. A dear Colorado friend prayed on the phone with me during my roughest day, as she was having one too.
5. We got to go to a free zoo and conservatory. It was such a beautiful thing- the animals and then all those living green plants. Like a sanctuary of life in the midst of all the bleakness outside.
6. I saw evidences of the kids loving each other. My middle son, laying on the couch with a 102 fever, volunteered to share is own special blanket with his little brother. My oldest shared her special blanket later with my middle.
7. Today felt crazy because both my sons were sick and wanted to be held all day. But thankfully God granted them alternating naps so I was able to mostly hold each of them individually, all day long. And my bad hip isn't much worse than usual for it.
8. My daughter was a gem today. She was feeling fine and was so helpful with the other two and just a blessing to be around.
9. The weather was in the 40s this week! The kids stomped in puddles out front without snow pants or gloves.
10. I was blessed with the company of a new friend here in Minnesota. She inspires me to be a better wife and I'm thankful for that. 
11. God answered prayers for my parents and brother in Papau New Guinea!

"But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness."

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thoughts from house-cleaning

By Mary

We moved to our new house sight unseen. We were pretty much going off what was available within a short timeline, limited properties in our budget, even more limited properties making allowance for our dog, and finding an area where we felt pretty good about me being alone with the kids the majority of the time amidst mixed internet reviews of things like "love this city, there's no crime", and "my neighbor across the street was shot in broad daylight".

So when we moved, we knew we were dropping two bedrooms and about 1000 square feet off of our home size and were kind of just hoping for the best. And I'm so thankful for how well our things actually fit here, especially when we showed up and the layout was completely different from what I had anticipated from the pictures. I actually kind of love that the kids share rooms now, I like cleaning half the amount of toilets, and while I miss having a dedicated space for guests, at least it doesn't take me quite so long to vacuum. There's really only one thing I really don't care for-the kitchen counter-tops.

They're tile. And its not just that they're tile. The bathroom counter-tops are tile and they don't really bother me. They're these textured tiles that somehow cause my pots and pans to leave behind color that I have to really scrub to remove. They have these rounded edges that make it difficult to wipe crumbs up into the sink, or off the counter into my hand. And the grout lines are so thin, it seems impossible to really get clean. But its even harder to make it LOOK really clean. Somebody told me once that people loved the kind of stone counter-tops we had in Beaufort because the pattern camouflaged crumbs and spills so it appeared cleaner than it was. I never gave it much thought, but maybe that's part of why these tiles bother me so much. Maybe I miss the ease of the appearance of cleanliness.

On the other hand, the carpet here is sort of speckled, and I'm a little disappointed every time I vacuum because I don't get the impression of getting it quite as clean as I used to when I vacuumed the single-tone carpet where I could easily spot the dog hair and crumbs and crunched up leaves. I always felt so rewarded getting it really clean.

Somehow my random carpet-and-counter thoughts started me thinking about purity and righteousness while I was vacuuming the other day. I think it can be easy, comfortable, to let low standards make a little pattern on your life so you don't even notice sin's filth when it creeps in. How much harder to hold to God's standards of purity, where anything less than what is pure and lovely and noble and excellent makes a glaring mark. So I'm praying for my heart to be aligned with His, and for the reward of true purity to outweigh the ease of only having the appearance of cleanliness.