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! =) 



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."