Friday, October 12, 2018

lullabies

by Alanna

I lay in the dark on the kids' floor tonight. One sick toddler and two restless ones breathed in their beds nearby. Lullabies played on a borrowed CD. I remember one of these songs from when I was small. "Sleep sound in Jesus." So much nostalgia floods over me. Sharing a room for so many years with my sister, my best friend. Feeling safe and secure and loved. Falling asleep to that song in the dark. More memories tug at my heart. Singing songs in the darkness of South Africa. Singing with my "twin", singing with my cousin. Holding small dear hands until breathing became deep and peaceful. I prayed so much for those babies, cried so many tears with them and over them and across the ocean for them. I wanted so much for them. Families and homes. Jesus most of all. Most days I don't think about South Africa anymore.  But tonight I'm surprised at tears and this ache in my heart for them. I feel most strongly this absence where my first heart son took a piece of my heart and never returned it. I miss him tonight. I love him so much. I loved them all. I love these babies here too- these four under my roof, that God has given to me for this time. For only He knows how long. I cry tears for them too, because I want so much for them too. Wisdom, health, love, good friendships. Jesus most of all. Maybe I should spend more evenings laying on the floor in their room, just being near and hearing lullabies and remembering.  Remembering South Africa. Remembering my little one. Remembering how precious time is and how we have no guarantees. Remembering to love.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

grey days

by Alanna

Sometimes I try to deny that winter is coming. I still wear sandals every day, nevermind that it's in the 40s. I try to stick to a sweater and avoid the coat, still get outside every day despite the rain. I never ever check the weather forecast.

But now that we wake up to grey and eat dinner as it fades to black, I'm thankful I finally bought a sun lamp. I don't intend to give in to depression this winter, whatever that looks like.  Sometimes I feel like a caged animal, and I cry and shake my fists at the dumb clouds that won't part. But then I let my arms fall to my sides again because this is where God put me. And this is also where God put the clouds, and the cold, and the winter.

I'll probably never figure out if "seasonal depression" is a disease, or giving in to it a sin, or a little of both. I do know that there are days when my soul sings to Jesus but my mind is a haze and my heart dull. I fear sometimes. Fear the winter, fear dysfunctionality (which I can't even spell), fear not seeing the sun for perhaps weeks on end. But I know some things with confidence. That I will not give in to this darkness. That I will make my home a refuge of love and light. Play hymns and songs, bake good things, laugh and dance, invite people here. Whether or not my mind and heart will follow, my body and soul will sing to Jesus.

I also know that God uses broken people. Many lies whisper to me that this is not so. That my son is angry because I am not emotionally whole for him. That if I was not depressed my marriage problems would go away. That no one is blessed by me, that God cannot be glorified in me. But thankfully I know the truth to fight these lies. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2nd Corinthians 4:7) God knows I am broken. He chose to make me His child anyhow.

I also know that God is all powerful, sovereign, enough. So every moment this winter, I will cling to Him. When I find myself weeping on the floor, when I can't think straight, when I have to apologize to my kids over and over again for my lack of patience, to my husband for my lack of a listening ear. When I miss the sun, when I miss the blue skies. I will come to Jesus. Every day, every moment.  I pray that in this fragile broken vessel of me, He will be glorified. That His great mercy would be all the more evident from the depths of my darkness. He is enough. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

prayers for grace and strength

by Alanna

God doesn't always answer the small prayers I want him to. That the line at the DMV would be short, that the baby would sleep during the wait, that he'd not need to nurse during lunchtime with the 3 toddlers, that the brown stuff smeared up the highchair could be banana and not poop. Life with four kids under four is going wonderful, as long as I redefine that word to match the expected for this season of life.  I have seen God answering other prayers. For grace, for love, for joy and laughter.( It's helpful to have a sense of humor when my 3-year old forgets to lift the lid and pees on top of the toilet). I think that God is teaching me a few things these days. One, to notice the things to be thankful for.  If I am nursing the baby and the one-year-old has a blowout, I thank Him that the toddlers are happily playing together. It could be worse.  If we had to give up at the DMV because it was taking too long with my four and the baby was screaming, I'm thankful that all three of my "big kids" were well-behaved, and that lunch was waiting for us in the oven. (Extra thankful for my delay-start oven). God is also teaching me to pray for grace, by myself, with my kids, especially in the moments. He is ever-present here. It is worth slowing down to stop and pray when I feel in over my head, instead of frantically trying to multitask to a new level.  These are lessons I am still learning, but I'm so thankful that I can always come to Him. He is ever faithful. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

drama queens and something better than capturing a city

by Alanna

My 3-year old daughter has reverted to babyhood lately. She crawls around and makes baby sounds, and wants her 2-year old brother to role play as her dad. Some of it is playful and healthy, and some of it involves a regression to temper tantrums and throwing fits when she is disappointed. Her fits are mostly quiet, fussing and whining and manipulative. A few days ago when she was pouting, she asked me to take her to the mirror. I was surprised because it's not a request I'd heard before, so I asked her why. She said she wanted to see what she looked like sad. I realized then that she was being a drama queen. Purposefully, intentionally, and she wanted to show off not just to me and whoever else was in the room at the time, but even in the mirror. I was astonished, but I showed her herself and then we made happy faces together and talked about how much more beautiful happy was than complaining.

Yonas and I are reading in Philippians, and that familiar verse came up about doing all things without grumbling or disputing. I know it; I had my kids memorize it not long ago. But complaining is ingrained in me. Habits that stretch back I know not how far, to speak negatively. It seems to be a popular thing in our culture too. To complain, to point out the bad in our society, our church, our government, our families, ourselves. Maybe that's why the author of Philippians goes on to say that not complaining would make us "shine as lights in the world", "in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation".  I don't want to be a drama queen. I don't want a heart full of complaining that manifests itself in my face and my words. I want a heart full of joy that overflows in abundant praise to Jesus. In constant remembrance and speaking aloud of His goodness.

We are memorizing a verse now that I feel is way over my toddlers' heads. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city" (Proverbs 16:32). I chose it for my son, who struggles with anger that is vocal and aggressive. But I am realizing that my daughter and I need this more these days. A reminder that it is a powerful thing to rule your spirit. My husband and I walked around the lake after we read in Philippians, and I told him that often I want to do something "big" for God. But that maybe something as simple as doing all things without grumbling, maybe that would bring Him so much glory. Maybe not complaining would be better than capturing a city. So that is what I will ask for and fight for these days.

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! =)