Wednesday, October 18, 2017

God with us

by Alanna

His name is Emmanuel. My third little boy. 

Being pregnant with him was hard for me, emotionally dark.
I wondered sometimes if God knew what He was doing.
Carrying a third baby before my 1st one's second birthday.
So many people don't agree with the "hands-off" approach to this family thing.
I struggled with trusting God with this one.

But then he came.

We named him Emmanuel.
I can't explain in words the joy this little boy is to me.
It is not just that he is one of the easiest babies I have ever cared for.
He is happy.

He brings light and laughter to our whole family.
He loves to play by himself.
Loves to be held and get attention.
Loves his brother and sister.
Loves to eat and sleep at night.
Love to get himself into positions he can't get out of.

He is such a gift to me.

And I am blown away by God's mercy.

Because I could have had a difficult baby as my third.
And I'm sure this one will bring his own challenges.
But for now, I am just rejoicing in God's goodness
in blessing us with this little baby.
His ways are so much better than ours.
His goodness so far beyond our comprehension.
He is always worthy of our trust.
And worthy of our praise.
So tonight I'm praising him for Emmanuel.
God is indeed with us. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

abundant bread

by Alanna

I feel that maybe I have written this post before, because I know it's not a new lesson that God is teaching me. But no matter. It will help remind me to put it down again. I was feeling a little desperate the other day and opened the Bible to just anywhere. Landed on John 6; a huge crowd of people is following Jesus around.  Hard for me to imagine that size crowd- 5,000 men.  Jesus asks Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" Which I laugh at because Jesus already knows what He is going to do.  But Philip's answer sounds like mine so often. There isn't any way to get bread for all these people. Even a huge sum of money wouldn't suffice.  Basically, it's hopeless.  I feel like this sometimes in my house, even though I'm feeding only 4 other people. 

There's not enough of me.  This one needs a spanking but I think he also needs some concentrated mommy time.  Maybe a snuggle in the rocking chair with his favorite blanket.  That one needs me to listen to her long story about her teddy bear, and help her take care of him and four other toy animals in her pretend nursery.  They both need lunch because I suspect this is why they are getting cranky in general.  The husband could use lunch too, since he's been working 14 hour days lately and is probably tired.  The baby wants to nurse and needs me to also change his poop and clean the spit-up that he is rubbing around on the floor with his tummy as he crawls off to chew on something he probably shouldn't be.  I know my bathroom needs to be cleaned.  I wonder if there is iced tea in the fridge for my husband, and when I will find time to make some if not. And on and on it goes.

I always feel guilty for what I am not doing well.  Today I complained, and asked aloud why God gave me so many roles if I can't do them all well. Something has to give- the house, the cooking, shopping frugally, being a friend, loving my husband well, patience with my children, my own sanity.  But the truth is that there is always enough time in a day to do the things that God wants us to do.  There is always enough time.  Just not enough of me.

So I relate to this boy in the story.  The one who gives his five barley loaves and two fish.  A tiny ridiculous offering in the face of 5000 hungry men.  This is all he has.  And he gives it all.  But Jesus accepts it, and "when He had given thanks", He distributed it to all the people.  The truth is, I don't have to have enough.  Because Jesus is always enough.  How many times do I have to be reminded of this before I will understand?  All I have to do is hold out what I have to Him. All of it, in thanksgiving.  And trust that He will make it enough.  That it won't matter what doesn't get done around here.  God knows what these people in my life need.  My job is to speak thanksgiving, open my hands, and give my all.  God's job is to do the rest.

Then this evening I read the same story in one of the kids' bible storybooks.  And this version pointed out how even the little boy who had offered the loaves was satisfied.  In the end he also had more than enough.  I believe that this is true. That if we offer all we have in thanksgiving, to Jesus- and thus through Him to our kids, to our friends, to our husbands, to our families, to the world, that we will not be empty.  Jesus will take our tiny ridiculous portion, and with His incredible power He will fill not just those around us, but us too. And we too will be satisfied.            

Friday, August 18, 2017


by Alanna

My daughter said this with excitement tonight. Minnesota-apolis. The place we now live. North Minnesota-apolis to be exact.  We've been splitting our days and nights pretty equally between our new house and a new friend's house.  We don't have any furniture out except beds and a table, and haven't unpacked more than a couple boxes yet. The rest sit in our garage, in various states of disarray from me rummaging through them to find things. One thing I rummage a lot for is warmer clothes! It's been raining nearly every day here, and I'm overjoyed when I see the sun.  My husband already put new floors in our main level (tore up carpet, sanded and refinished the hardwood) and this week he is painting.  So he's working long hours and me too but in a different way.

Our middle one is having a hard time these days, stretching my limits as a mama. Today was just a typical day, other than a prolonged headache that has stretched past 24 hours now.  My two year old came upstairs with her hand all poopy, saying "umm I think it's dirt....or maybe poop." Why did she stick her hand in her pants? She seemed as surprised as me- she didn't know there was poop in there! After baths for both the toddlers, my one year old walked through the hallway peeing on the floor and laughing. I will also have to find some clean towels in this house that isn't mine, because I've used them all up today cleaning milk and water spills from the floor.  I was impatient today. I see it so much in me lately, my self rearing its ugly head.  Lack of compassion and love for my kids.  Today I told God that I actually can't do this. I actually can't take care of 3 kids under 3 by myself. Let alone in a strange place far away from all we've known, with no sunshine.  But I remember and hold on to this that someone told me once- God is not surprised by my failures as a mother.  He gave these children to me, and He knew exactly the kind of mom I would be.  This is not to say that I don't want to grow. I want so much for Jesus to give me His heart for my children.  His love, His patience, His compassion.  I want to listen to them the way He listens to me.  To love them the way He does.  I am crying out desperately for this. 

Dinner dishes await me, and an application for medical insurance here.  Hoping to write again soon more about life in Minneapolis and the things that God is doing here.  I can become too focused sometime on my own struggles and forget the big picture of His glory. Because of Him we have much hope.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When I grow weary

By Mary

Surprise, surprise, it's me writing for a change! Typically a long absence in writing for me means I just haven't found a way to manage my time to allow for things like's often pretty low on the list of things I could do in the evenings after the kids' bedtime. Usually during the day some idea will float through my head, something I'd like to write about later, and I try to file it away in my memory and hope it doesn't get lost somewhere in the midst of mom brain. But these last months the inspiration just hasn't been there. Until one night last week during bedtime when I just felt worn out. And I tried to think of a way to describe it.

Overwhelmed didn't suit...I felt perfectly capable of doing the whole bedtime routine. There are quite a few teeth to brush in our house, several sets of pajamas to be put on, a couple of sensitive skins needing lotion, bedtime stories and snuggles waiting to be had. And none of its hard. There are just times when I'm so tired of doing it. Every day.

I have another confession too: sometimes I'm so tired of feeding people! And this is coming from someone who's husband deeply loves going out to eat, so it's not just meal preparation that gets to me.  I really probably have less right to complain than most. It's just these hungry little tummies that are always, well, hungry.

And that night last week is when the perfect word came to mind to describe my feeling in these moments. Weary. But immediately that word triggered another thought in my mind-

2nd Thessalonians 3:13 "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good."

Usually I think of this verse when it comes to extra stuff. Service projects outside the home, for others. Helping at church. Not so much the daily necessities of life. But of course it holds just as true for the snotty noses and the afternoon snacks and the dishes and the baths and the laundry. Or for carving out time to read the bible or take a shower.

Lets not grow weary in doing good, daily, in every way, for Him, for us, for those around us.

Friday, June 2, 2017

big changes

by Alanna

It's pretty incredible how long it's been since I've written a life update on here.  Not sure if anyone much reads our blog anyway, but here goes.

We had a new baby =) Born April 2nd at 4:12 a.m. weighing 7 lb. 1 oz. He turns two months old today, and loves to smile.  He started sleeping through the night and rolling over at six weeks, and so far is a gem of a baby. He likes to be around people and have attention, and it is so easy to make him happy.  He is our third, and our oldest turned two and a half just last month.  Life is crazy but I feel sure I was made to live this way- in the crazy.  I need Jesus more than I ever previously realized, and it is a good place to be.  (I try to remind myself of this on the hardest days).

We are working on moving up to Minnesota.  My husband didn't get accepted to seminary, but we are moving anyway in the hopes of plugging into the church up there.  That church sends out a lot of missionaries, and they encouraged us to apply to their seminary again.  So in some ways it feels like a first step to the mission field, but in some ways like a scary unknown.  So my husband has been working lots, fixing up his mom's house to get it ready to sell.  She moved in with us yesterday.  We are hoping to buy a house together with her in the Minneapolis area.  So there are all these big changes coming up.  I have always expected to move away from my family, to live as a missionary in another country.  But moving across the country feels hard and scary, and I don't feel quite ready to leave behind the people here.  So I am praying that God will give me the perspective of this as a grand adventure.  Of joyous expectation for what God has for us there in the north.  Maybe new people to love on, new ministry to do as a family, a new church.

One thing I know for sure is that in all the changes, God is sovereign.  He knows better than me; He has a plan, and that "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?"


Thursday, May 25, 2017

happy birthday

by Alanna

Dear little one,

Happy birthday.
Although five days have passed now since then
I have thought of you each one.
And finally find the time to sit down and write.
To a little boy across the ocean
who is not so little anymore.

On your birthday we had a picnic
with my three babies here.
And they didn't know why I celebrated
but I did.

I celebrate on your birthday
because you are precious.
Because I am so thankful
that God created you.
Because He has done such
tremendous things in your life.
Because he has grown you so well.
I celebrate because of the things
He taught me through you.
And the beautiful way He let me be a part of your story.

In my mind's eye you are still young,
toddling up the dirt path years ago.
You were learning words back then
And I cheered for every one.
Now you are learning bigger things
and I am not around to see them
but I am confident that your family
is cheering you on as you learn and grow.

I hope that your birthday was full of joy.
I hope that you are learning about God
and the tremendous love He has for you.
I pray for you my dear one,
that you would grow strong
and that you would know Jesus
and love Him above all.

I send you all my love always
from across these many miles.
Happy birthday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I don't deserve this redemption

by Alanna

So many times lately I find myself being pulled out of the muck and mire by strong hands.  Jesus bearing me up, God being the strength of my heart.  Sometimes it's a quick whispered prayer- "Jesus, I can't do this. Please live in me." Sometimes it's a harder battle on my knees. And His redemption, His power, His love blows me away.  Especially the weaker I feel and the more I see my own inadequacies.  These last few months have been hard emotionally, not because anything has gone wrong but just because depression has hit me harder than I've ever known it before.  I can't help waking up this way, spending whole days keeping back tears and just trying to stay afloat.  But I don't want to use this darkness as an excuse for sin.  We all go through hard things, paths that Jesus asks us to walk that we might not have chosen.  (Didn't He also walk that way?)  I want Him to be glorified in the midst of all this.  If I'm going to cry than I want to let Him be my comfort, not pull away from Him.  The redemption that has blown me away the most lately is the one that I haven't asked for.  When I went for a walk and left my husband, tired and frustrated and counting down the hours til the day could end.  Because sometimes I give up, and I write off days as "hopeless".  In the morning things will be better, I tell myself.  But I don't think that Jesus works that way.  Instead of praying to Him and asking Him to change me, I just thought about pointless things and talked to my kids and distracted myself.  But His strong hands will not let me go.  And even sometimes when I want to quit, He will not let me.  He gave me my husband that day when I got home, patient and kind despite me.  He gave me gifts and laughter and hugs and things I wouldn't have even dreamed to ask for.  He redeemed the most broken morning.  And not just once but I have seen Him do it several times this past week, and countless times over my lifetime.  I want to do better at hoping, at believing and trusting and obeying Him.  I know I can never deserve this redemption, but I want to fall on His grace more and more.  I know that this blog is disjointed and perhaps rambling, but I hope that it is a testament to God's goodness. His love is never ending, unstoppable, furious.  He died to redeem us.  I am so thankful for His daily redemption of me.   

Friday, January 13, 2017

for my son

by Alanna

Dear Samuel,

You are going to be one soon, and I want to capture the memories of where you are now and praise God for you.  You are my darling joy, nearly always happy and eager to smile at whoever will smile at you. I see you even in the grocery store, smiling at strangers who will give you their attention.  You are an active little boy, walking almost everywhere now- with your arms still high up in the air for balance.  You cried so hard when we first put shoes on you about a month ago, but since then you are willing to wear them and even walk in them some.  You love to be outside, and sit quietly in the stroller even for long walks.  You can climb stairs, get down off the couch, shake and nod your head. 

You are slowly learning to sign "more" and "all done" although in your highchair you would rather wave your arms around and yell to get what you want.  You say "na" to mean yes, and sometimes to mean no. I think you are trying to say ball too.  But you are more of a doer than a talker.  You love your sister Isabella.  With her running, you crawling fast, you chase her around the house- both of you laughing. 

You are just starting to get interested in reading books.  You make huge efforts to find your favorite ones in the book basket and then carry them to wherever I happen to be.  It is hard to resist you so I often drop the dishes and read it to you.  You like to get into the kitchen cupboards, especially the one with the potatoes.  Often I find a stray potato in my room, and this morning one in Isabella's dresser drawer among her shirts.

You like to wrestle any big stuffed animals, and you love to snuggle with your owl blanket.  You are cuddly when you have a still moment, and you love being around people.  Getting you to sit still in church or anywhere else is quite a challenge.

We are trying to teach you obedience, and you are doing well but don't like not getting your way.  I have prayed for you since before you were born, that you would follow Jesus no matter how hard.  That you would obey Him no matter the cost.  I know that in that obedience you would find your greatest joy my son.  I hope and pray that you are like your namesake, Samuel, who heard from God at a young age and followed Him.

I am so thankful to be your mama.  I love you with all my heart.   

Thursday, January 12, 2017

for my daughter

by Alanna

Dear Isabella,

I write this to you so we can both remember what you were like at this age- just over 2. You are a joy to have as a daughter. Always talkative, rarely pausing for breath. You talk so well in full sentences and have for a long time. You sing songs, sometimes the same one over and over again. Your favorite song is Hosanna by Andrew Peterson. But you love to sing Trust and Obey, Are You Washed, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baby Beluga, and many others. Recently I heard you singing the hymn "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken" to Samuel when you were both having lunch.  You love to learn and so are always asking questions. "What's this one called?" "What's his name?" "Where are we going?" "What're we gonna have for lunch?" You still love to read books, lately your new Jesus Storybook Bible that we got you and your brother for Christmas. The story of David and Goliath is so far your favorite.

Christmas was the time you really started asking so many questions about "baby Jesus." You had a long discussion with me on the way home about Jesus and who He is. Figuring out that He's not a baby anymore, that He is kind and not scary, that He is the King and He takes care of us. You know that He is the One we pray to about everything. You told me twice recently that you love Him.  For this I'm so thankful, because if there's one thing I want you to know it is to know Jesus.

You are still an introvert and not a cuddler.  You need time by yourself at home to just play with your baby dolls or have a pretend picnic. But I have seen you grow lots in being kind to people and giving hugs even when you don't feel like it.  I think your best friend is Kezi, who we met at the park before you were even one. You like to go to Nona and Grandpa's house and play with your aunts and cousins.

I think your favorite thing is babies. You mother your baby dolls at home, and whenever we see a baby in public you want to touch them and love on them.  I'm happy for this because you have a new baby brother on the way, and I think you will be such a big helper with him.  

You are better at fine motor skills than gross motor, but you are getting so much braver in trying new things. Climbing at the park, jumping like a frog, doing acrobats or balancing on things around the house. You either say to me "Look what I doing" or you ask "Mom what am I doing?" You like to make silly faces, go on walks, get new books, play soccerball with your papa or Samuel.

I am praying for you this coming year, that you would continue to learn obedience. That you'd keep growing in kindness and love for people, even when it does not come easy to you. Praying for you to have a gentle and quiet spirit. Like any two year old you like to talk back and assert your wants. Also praying for your emotions.  You are so much like your mama, feeling things strongly.  This makes you laugh loud and cry hard.  It makes you sympathetic to others but hard for you to cope when things go wrong in your world.  I pray that God gifts you with self-control and discipline, to use your emotions for good.  I know, it is not easy to be emotional.  But the world needs followers of Jesus who feel things strongly, and I hope that your compassion and empathy will grow under His guidance.  I pray too, most of all, that Jesus gives you His joy.

I love you with all my heart and I am so thankful I get to be your mama. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

by Alanna

Perhaps I’m alone, but I doubt it, in wondering sometimes if I am meant to be here. I am not cut out to be a mom to three kids under 2 ½. I can’t handle the two I have; I don’t give them healthy lunches; I don’t deserve this kind and patient husband; I don’t belong here worshipping in this church when darkness so oppresses me; I don’t deserve to be a daughter to them.  Maybe we all hear something false at times. Maybe you believe you should not be still single, still waiting. Maybe you are not cut out for the suffering you are going through. Maybe tomorrow will feel too overwhelming and you just won’t get out of bed. All these doubts and fears and lies, settled by one thing. The truth. God put you here. If you are following Jesus, then here is where He has you. If you are a mother, then He created and purposefully placed each baby in your womb or in your heart, and made you their mother for whatever time He has. He knows everything about you. He knows you are going to fail them. If you have been waiting for so long for something, He knows. He purposefully placed you right here, where you are.  If you are headed off to a foreign land, He is sending you and goes with you.  I know for myself that God put me in this house, with this husband and these children. It is not myself I’m to depend on, but Him. Who am I to say to my Creator that maybe He got it wrong?  Maybe I won’t be able to handle this next child, maybe things will be too hard for me, maybe darkness will overwhelm me.  But I know the truth.  Jesus put me here.  He goes before me and behind me and lives inside of me.  His grace is always sufficient. Instead of fear I want to embrace joy, in eager expectation to see what He will do next.