Tuesday, April 2, 2019

birthdays

by Alanna

Dear Emmanuel,

Happy 2nd birthday! You bring life to our home more than I can express in words typed up tonight. I think you touch everyone you meet, with joy and love. Strangers sitting behind us in church a few months ago expressed that you had touched their hearts with your joy. You are friendly to everyone; you love to smile and show affection. You love to laugh. This morning when we told you happy birthday, you smiled and softly said "Happy birthday" right back. You are a gift to us from God, a persistent reminder of your name, "God with us."

You have reached a lot of milestones in these past months. Talking in full sentences, singing songs, trying to read books to yourself, creating dramas with your dinner food as characters in the story. You have become so adept at expressing yourself- your needs, wants, and who it was that said mean words to you when mom was out of the room. Everytime you fall, even after total wipeouts on ice, you first announce "I fell!" and then cry if you need to afterward. You fight with your siblings sometimes, because you have ideas now about the toys you want to play with and how the games should go. You also try to irritate them on purpose sometimes, trying the excuse of "I just a baby!" when I come to reprimand you. You use the potty whenever you feel like it, on average about 5 times per week. I still don't think you know your colors, but you can count to ten and memorize Bible verses. You can walk all the way around our 1/2 mile track by the pond with no complaining. You believe the back of your hand is called your bottom, and refer to it that way. You love to repeat nearly everything we tell you, usually preceded by an "oh!" or succeeded by a "sweetie" or "baby" depending on how I had referred to you. You love to run and climb and jump and try to do anything your big brother does. You and him love to play together. You love animals and love the outdoors.  You like trucks and construction sites. You eat so much food at every mealtime, we wonder where you put it all.

I hope for you that your joy never dims. That you discover the One who created you, that He fills your heart with His joy and plants all your happiness deep in Himself. I pray that in this way your joy will never be shaken.

I am so in awe that God let me be your mom. You are a reminder to me of His goodness and that He is trustworthy in the way He is putting our family together. You are a gift. We love you always.




     

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Quiet and stillness

By Mary

It's been a while since I've really experienced seasons, since South Carolina's seasons are mostly just categorized as "hot" and "hotter". Gorgeous azaleas bursting into bloom and a thick layer of green pollen coating every outdoor thing mark spring, the lovebug swarms announce the arrival of summer just before the even more sweltering days make their appearance, and the marshes turn a certain shade of green that I'll always remember as the temperature drops just a tad when autumn comes along. Winter means not sweating when you dare to wear jeans-and maybe occasionally a jacket can be added to your outfit.  
While our area of Washington is really rather temperate, it's seasons are far more distinctive. I suppose that may be the reason why I've spent much of this winter reflecting on the seasons and how they reflect the seasons that our spirits experience. That they need.
Spring is such a bright time, lively in every way, new and fresh and clean. It mellows out to the sweetness of summer where you want to soak up each moment. And when the weather begins to turn crisp, the trees blaze out in a flame of glorious color. There's an energy in the air when the fall days begin...and then slowly, the leaves begin to brown and then drop to the ground, leaving their branches bare. Compared to the warmth, the bright, the color, winter can feel so dead and dreary...and limiting. You can feel shut in, shut off. But it's a necessary thing. Those bare trees, the grasses and flowers, they are all quietly waiting, drawing strength, growing and preparing for all that lies ahead.
With our second winter in Washington drawing to a close, these thoughts have been lingering in my mind. The first is from a book I read recently, that Jesus is the Lord of the fast as well as the feast. We need both, however nice it may feel just to bask in the glorious feasting. And the second, straight from the Bible.
"...In quietness and trust is your strength..."-Isaiah 30:15


Friday, January 18, 2019

Dove chocolate wisdom

By Mary

I've been mulling over a little nugget from a chocolate wrapper, so I thought I'd share :)
~~~~~
"DIFFICULT ROADS
often lead to
BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS."
~~~~~

Monday, January 14, 2019

January days

by Alanna

We spent Christmas in Colorado again this year- three weeks of glorious sunshine and lots of laughter with our family. Playing 500 with my parents, soccer with friends, basketball in flip-flops. Driving back to Minnesota is always hard, but each time we feel a little more confident that this is where God wants us to be, and a little more content with that. Able to open wide my hands and receive that beautiful gift of Colorado, and then say goodbye to it and go back to the place He has called us to.

Grey days here though, end on end, require discipline to do the things that are good for my mind and soul. They also require creativity. I'm so thankful for warm days lately- 20s and even 30s! that have turned our backyard into an ice rink instead of a snow bank. Here's some pictures documenting my gratitude- for my children, for getting outdoors, for gray and white and brown and ugly. I'm so thankful that Spring is going to come! My heart is already super excited for it.






 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Great is His faithfulness

By Mary

There are less than two hours left in the year 2018. On the one hand, I have no idea where this year went, and on the other I'm so glad it's finally over. Every year comes with it's mix of ups and downs, and I can't really say this year has been that much more extreme compared to others. But it's been hard. Often lonely. Perhaps one of the darker years of my life, yet still full of light. And one that has yielded growth, I believe. Growth that I hope will continue into the days ahead, in this new year and each one that comes after. Because God is faithful. In every way, in every thing.

I see His faithfulness in so many ways, so many things. Just now, I'm so grateful for the way His faithfulness is pictured in the faithfulness of the friends He's blessed me with. I found a card written by one dear friend years ago that spoke encouragement to me yet again today because of the sweet words written then as well as the continued presence she has in my life even from miles away.

And Alanna. Alanna and I first really spoke to each other at an AWANA pizza party one November fourteen years ago. We've been friends for over half of my life, and while we haven't lived within walking distance of each other for more than 8 years now and far too much time goes by between when we talk, it's like nothing really changes. It's such a precious blessing. This coming year I could resolve a lot of things-a lot of good, helpful things. But what I want most of all is to treasure His goodness and faithfulness in every form in my life and to praise Him with my whole heart.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

the way you love me

by Alanna

It was Thanksgiving week.
I tried so hard all week, fought for joy and won.
Thursday we feasted and laughed
ate cheesecake with our toddlers by candlelight
But things built up in me and around me
and on Friday I fell apart.
I bared my soul and let you into that darkness
but your words hurt that day.
Because you are only a man,
and truth is there's only so much a man can take.
So I fled deep into myself and pushed you away
And when you came after me with love and apologies
I drove you away.
You tried so hard but I was afraid.
Swallowed lies and truth all mixed together
about who I am and who I'm not
and who I wish I could be.
I want to be here for you,
to feel whole and to love you from that wholeness.
But truth is we are all broken
and me most of all.
So I left the house
left you wondering why God had given me to you.
I took the kids and cried it out at a cold park
while they played unawares.
I thought you'd never come
couldn't see redemption in all the mess I had made.
But you came for me there
broke through all my defenses
and I heaved great sobs standing there in your arms.
You whispered you would never give up on me.
And yes, it's true, we all deserve to be given up on.
All of us with our sin and darkness.
But that's why Jesus came, isn't it?
To stand in our stead, to pay the price
to name us beloved.
I can't expect perfection from you
just like you can't from me.
Only my Jesus is always safe
always understanding and compassionate.
He alone will never hurt me with words
when I bare my soul to him.
He is a guarantee.
But this I know with certainty my love.
I feel safe with you.
No, you are not perfect.
And sometimes your words will hurt.
But I am resolved not to hide from you
not to pretend I am someone I am not. 
Because this is true love.
Us, wading through this, broken together.
And I'd rather be broken with you than alone.
Thank you my love, for not giving up on me.
You are imperfect but you have given me
the clearest picture I have ever known
of Jesus
and the way He loves me.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Ladies, gentlemen, and respectability

By Mary

Years ago there was this song I'd hear on the radio with a line that ended "and any girl like you deserves a gentleman". I was initially irritated by the thought, like only certain types of girls should have a good guy. It wasn't long after my first baby was born, a girl. I didn't like the idea of her growing up with that being a prevalent concept-like a girl had to look or act a certain way for a guy to treat them with decency. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a flip side to it as well.  My son was only theoretical at the time, but I began to think about him and how I'd want him to be treated by a girl. And while this particular song was most likely shallow enough to be mostly referencing the girl's appearance, there was a lot more to it than that for me. The bottom line is that while I want my children to be treated well by others, always, I'm not necessarily going to expect it unless they are also treating others well themselves.

It's been said for the longest time that chivalry is dead: well if a real gentleman, or a knight in shining armor are few and far between these days, I can tell you that a real lady is a rare sighting too. They're both hard to find flourishing in an environment where even the thought of a moral compass is thrown out the window. Where morality is lacking, decency is lacking. So while I'll teach my daughters to hold out for a gentleman, I hope to teach them to be a lady worthy of one. And while I plan to raise my son to be a gentleman, I plan to tell him not to settle for less than a lady.

I want to raise both ladies and gentlemen, and that's what I expect them to be to whoever they meet in any type of relationship; personal, professional, passing acquaintance. Real men and women act in a respectful way towards others because of their own respectability, even when the other person hasn't done anything to earn it. We should learn to treat others with respect, but also everyone should learn to be respectable, to earn respect.

There seems to be such a men vs women mentality in the world lately. There's so much blame-shifting and finger-pointing and it's wearying to hear everyone pitted against each other and how everything is always someone else's fault. It seems everyone wants to be treated decently without behaving decently and nobody wants to take any responsibility for the part they play in any of it. I think it just gets harder and harder to bring up little men and little women, real ones, good ones, in a world that becomes more and more against them. So I'm so glad we don't do it alone. So thankful for grace upon grace and that all things are possible with God.