Thursday, November 13, 2014

Number Your Days

This morning started out like any other day. While I was in the kitchen preparing some food, Hannah listened to some music while coloring. Her ears perk up when any "Frozen" song comes on. This one happened to be 'Do you want to build a snowman'. In the movie, when the bridge of the song plays, that is when it shows the tragic ship wreck of the parents of Anna and Elsa. Hannah turned to me and said,

Hannah - "The Mommy and Daddy dead."

Me - "Yes, Hannah, they did die."

Hannah - "...and you dead too."

Me - "One day I'll die"

And then I proceeded to cry (silly hormones) and tried to explain in toddler terms that one day we would die.

That got me thinking about a conversation I had with Jeremy earlier today. We discussed how heaven and hell don't seem to be real to most people, even believing Christians. Ourselves included. The way we can tell that is that there seems to be no urgency in telling people about the coming judgment. If we do truly believe that there will be an end to our lives, that we'll have to call into account our past deeds or lack thereof (not accepting Christ), then we would be telling everyone we know to come to the Lord.

"teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom." -Psalm 90:12

I'll admit I haven't been holding up my end of the Great Commission lately. I think distractions in my life get in the way much of the time and His command goes uncompleted. But I don't want it to be that way. I want to live my life in light of the fact that I will be facing the Creator of the universe one day, knowing that I faithfully pursued His instructions to us. But I know myself and I am a still a sinner, and at the very least, my prayer is that I would rely on Christ to help me because I need all the help I can get! This is not a minor issue, it really is a matter of life or death.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Every Thought Captive {Our Favorite Children's Books}

Last month our sweet girl turned two. Hard to believe she's already so big! What a joy she is in our lives. I could write for hours sharing all the cute things she does or says but I'll save that for another time. ;)

We have decided that we will be homeschooling Hannah and any other kiddos that come along, and while we are still in the pre-school age, we are trying to lay the groundwork for her further education. Hannah loves reading. She loves when we read to her and when she "reads" to herself. We are at the library every week for story time and book collecting.

In the few years we've had her in our lives we've read our share of children's books. Some good, some not so good. But it is fun finding the gems, looking for more awesome books by the author and checking them out over and over again. I've found some to be our all time favorites because in them I see God and how He is working in our lives and in the world. Let me share with you a few on our list:

One Winter's Day is about little Hedgehog. His home has been blown over and he needs to get to his friend Badger's house before the big snowstorm hits. He's all bundled up for his journey and he encounters some animals in need along the way. It is a sweet story about seeing the need in the lives of other people and how we can be His hands and feet and give of ourselves for our friends.

Any one of these books by Steve Jenkins; My First Day, Time to Sleep, or Mama Built a Little Nest. All of Mr. Jenkins' books are about animals and the many habits and or peculiar things they do. When I read these books to Hannah, I had to stop for a minute and digest what they were saying. I couldn't help but see the Father's hand in their being. There was no gradual progression for these animals to do these very distinct things to survive, they were either there in the first place or they wouldn't survive, period. It's wonderful to see His handiwork in random books about animals.

The classic kids book, People In Your Neighborhood, reminds us of the many people we come in contact with and serves as a nice add-on to the parable about the good samaritan. Who is our neighbor? It's any number of people we encounter on a daily basis and when you talk to your child about how we can live out the story of the good samaritan, we can show them that we have the opportunity to bless people all around us; your postman, your grocer or your doctor, etc...

Someday Loves You, Mr. Hatch is one of my favorites! I first discovered this book when Hannah was still in the womb. I actually found the website, Storyline Online, where actors and actresses read children's books. This story shows how simple acts of kindness can bless someone, how one person can affect great change in their community, and about how we can show kindness towards others to show them the love we have through Christ. "We love because He first loved us."- 1 John 4:19

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5

I have been reading the book, Home Education by Charlotte Mason. It is a fascinating book that gives you the nuts and bolts foundation for how to educate your children at home. One section that really struck me was about helping our children adopt good habits. We think as we are accustomed to think. And those thoughts become our habits and feelings which then rule the child or his character. It is our job as parents to help point our children to Christ in every way we can. In the book of Deuteronomy, we are instructed to teach our children when they wake up and when they go to sleep, when they are out and about and when we are at home. As I read these children's books to Hannah, even if they are not 'christian' per say, we are always using the things in front of us to teach her about God and His great love for us. Take a look at your children's book shelf and see the many ways we can take their little thoughts captive for Christ and His kingdom!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Submitting to His Sovereignty {And a Rosh Hashanah Craft}

I had a miscarriage about 5 weeks ago. We’d been hoping to have another baby for a while now so we were ecstatic to find out we were expecting. But a few short days after seeing that positive pregnancy test, I started bleeding. It happened the day before our 5 year wedding anniversary. It was not spent the way we had hoped. But we promised it in our wedding vows; to love, honor and cherish in the good times and the bad. Our anniversary and those words we exchanged took on new meaning as we experienced our first tragedy as a couple.

As soon as it happened I wanted as much distance from that day as possible. The passage of time is healing those wounds but there is still a struggle. A struggle to let go of the pain. The struggle to just let go of it all. I got mad at God when it happened. I asked Him to protect the baby. I pleaded with Him to stop the bleeding. I prayed and prayer and prayed. But nothing happened. The bleeding eventually stopped but there was no healing. Nothing remained by a bruised and battered faith. 

I walked away from God. Not visibly but spiritually. I still looked the part, trying to keep up appearances but I was still hurting and doubting and wondering how such an awful thing could happen. My husband and I have been experiencing what St. John of the Cross described as a “dark night of the soul”. Our family bible study stopped. There was just nothing left in us. My anger turned to indifference.

As stated before, I was still going to church but just so everything seemed normal but Jeremy had stopped going. One particular Sunday, something happened. It was communion Sunday, and as they passed the bread and grape juice around, I let it pass by me. I could not in good conscience partake of the communion in the state I was in. As I sat in silence while the rest of the service continued, I wept. I hated being in this place. Something had to change. 

Jeremy and I had many long talks, trying to work through all of this mess. Our family bible study was reinstated this past week. It felt so good to come together to read God’s word. I may not know why everything happens, but I know without Him, I am lost. 

Today happens to be the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. It is the Jewish new years, a day to commemorate our dependence upon God as our Creator and Sustainer. The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, which also represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance, for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man’s first sin, and serves as the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

As I’ve gone through the last few months and reflect back, I’ve come to realize that nothing is guaranteed in this life. We are always living our lives not knowing what is next. When we plan for something to be a certain way, even when we take steps to make it so, things could still not end up the way we had wanted. I don’t understand why God allowed such a tragic thing to happen to us (or to anyone for that matter), but I do know that He is sovereign and that like our first parents, Adam and Eve, who sinned in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan even from the beginning about how to redeem it all in the end. I may not understand it all, but I trust it. I trust Him. And I know He will help me move past this, in faith. 
{ Rosh Hashanah Craft }

We may not be Jewish but I believe that as the bible states, we have been grafted in to the olive tree, and their holy days are as much a part of our heritage as believers in the Messiah, and as such, our family observes them with Christ at the focus of all of them as He is the fulfillment of the promises. That being said, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, Hannah and I had a simple lesson, I read the story of Adam and Eve and we made some stamps out of apples and did some apple printing. Celebrating today was a wonderful reminder of God's sovereignty and how He always has a plan to save His people even from great tragedy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Raw Caramel Apple Dessert

It's about 85 degrees in Seattle right now which means it's like 100 degrees in our apartment. Cooking has become unbearable!

My husband is a genius and came up with a delish dessert and a fun way to cool down while we are in the house in these dog days of summer. The first is very simple: a dollar store spray bottle. We're having fun in here spraying each other and feeling more refreshed. The other thing my handsome hubby came up with: the BEST dessert ever! There isn't much of a recipe but here is the general idea:

Chop up 1 apple, add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and sprinkle with a dash each of cinnamon (maybe 1 tsp), salt, and stevia. Now here's the part where we kick it up a notch. Add a very small amount of oil and caramel extract. Mix it all up and enjoy. It is seriously like a raw caramel apple pie without all the guilt and no baking in this hot heat!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Embracing Imperfect

I fall victim to it all the time. I'll be checking my facebook or instagram and see a friend on a fabulous summer vacation or just complete a swanky new home project, and I get jealous. I want to also be having a fabulous time and a beautiful home so I try and make myself look like I too am living an equally as amazing life. But it's all a show. It's all my way to look like I'm perfect. It's this thing I feel I need to achieve. To be a perfect mom and wife. To be an excellent home maker and cook. To be a totally toned and fit woman. There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to do well at something or enjoying yourself on a vacation, not at all, but there is a problem with seeing someone else have those things and then coveting after them. My reality, however, is imperfection. We can't always afford expensive vacations (staycations here we
come! :P), we don't own a house so there are no projects to be done, and I am by no means a perfect mother! Every day is a constant reminder of my imperfect existence.

As you know, ever since the birth of my daughter, I've been on a journey to get back into shape. I recently finished two more sessions of the workout program that changed my life and perspective on living a healthy lifestyle. I don't know what happened at the end of this last session, but I kind of went off the deep end. I've always been good about my food choices and kept on a pretty focused meal planning system (never feeling deprived of delicious food mind you and definitely not starving myself!) but I ended up eating like cookie monster for the last several weeks, literally devouring everything in sight including all those not so good for you items, i.e. boxed cookies, cereal. It's carb city over here! Jeremy and I have been hoping to add another little one to our family soon so when my pants started to feel tight I got hopeful that that was the reason why. When I found out it was just me putting on a few pounds I realized I had a problem. I recently signed up for my first half marathon and I just finished week one of my training. Getting back into the swing of things is tough, but it is absolutely necessary or I'll never grow, well, not in the way I want!

I feel like this applies in all areas of my life right now. I viewed a series of baby & toddler early development informational videos this last week. Usually when Hannah disobeys my instructions and outright defies me I get angry and/or frustrated and proceed to punish or discipline her in whatever way needs to be done at the time. After viewing those videos, my perspective changed. The doctors explained that each and every  baby or toddler is testing their boundaries, learning how far they can act or do in a certain situation. They are just seeing where those limits lie. And every time they do this it serves as an opportunity to teach. That's our job as parents and  I feel like I completely overlook that part most of the time and instead of seeing the teachable moment I just see a difficult situation that I have to begrudgingly deal with. Now I'm using my new perspective to approach each situation with more love and patience knowing that it's my job to teach her to control herself, to obey her parents and to enjoy the moment within the boundaries we've set.

These two areas in my life serve as examples of just how imperfect I am. That doesn't mean I wallow in my imperfection and say woe is me. We must strive for excellence, and for the God honoring desires we have, but also know that we're never going to be perfect. We're never going to be the best dressed, have the nicest house, or go on the best vacations. We need to stop trying to keep up with the Jones's (and by we, I mean me!! :) ) I'm beginning to embrace the fact that I'll never be an amazing athlete or perfect mother but I can learn from my mistakes and move forward knowing that they serve as a steppingstone to help me become a better person, someone that knows that it's God's grace that covers those mistakes and sins in my life. My identity is in who I am in Christ, not in what I achieve or do on instagram or facebook.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seeing the Silver Lining {A Praise Report}

A month or so ago, I wrote about the growing pains associated with raising a toddler and yes, the struggle is still there, but God has enabled me to grow in this area of my life. He has enabled me to love her and be patient with her. He has given me new eyes and a new heart in the situation.

As I am writing this my little one is throwing a tantrum in her room. This time it was because I looked at her and smiled. : / Being a first time parent, all these things are new to me. At first when she'd throw tantrums I would get frustrated with her and then at myself for getting so mad. Now I can't help but giggle when she throws a fit because she is being so silly. Kicking and screaming for no reason at all.

She is learning and growing and trying to establish herself as a person. She is testing her boundaries and seeing how much control she has in her surroundings. I get that and understand the struggle. I feel the same way in my own life sometimes.

God uses these every day moments to teach unconditional love. Even when Hannah is shoving me away and crying about me not letting her watch Elmo for the umpteenth time, I sit and extend my arms open for her. I wait patiently for my girl to come to her senses and embrace me back. It doesn't happen now because she may still be mad but I will continue to love her and wait for her. Parenthood is a beautiful picture of how the Father deals with us. What a blessing to be able to partake in this journey with the sweet family God has given me to love and teach and also to learn from.

I guess the point of this post is to tell you mamas to hang in there. You're going to have good days and you're going to have bad days. But when you lean on Christ to see you through the challenges, He will be right by your side. I've seen in my life and if you trust in Him, be assured you'll see it in yours too!

                                   Now for a few pics of Hannah's best meltdowns ;)
Happy (or sad) Memorial Day 2013
Apparently she didn't want to play in the barn :(

Hannah hating her drindl

Thursday, June 5, 2014

{Book Club} Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I've always been a big Martha Stewart fan. I LOVE her and her amazing culinary and crafting skills. Her home is always impeccable and her parties were stylized perfectly. Well move over Martha, because I recently finished reading Bread & Wine: A love letter to life around the table, by Shauna Niequist, and I think I've met my new culinary soul mate.
"It takes some time to learn, to try and fail and make a mess and try again. It takes even longer to get truly comfortable, to feel at home with a knife in your hand, to read through recipes as a guideline or set of ideas, to read through and add your preferences of tastes, your history and perspective. But it's a lovely process, with not a minute wasted. If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that's a skill for life - like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive."

It's not just the beautiful way she describes dinner parties with friends and family or the mouth watering recipes she shares, it's her heart and her desire behind them. She is authentic and beautiful. Her soul is right there for you to read on every page of her book. She is someone you can talk to, laugh with and cry together. It's one thing to put on a fancy party and it's another to feed a grieving friend who's mother just died or celebrate a homecoming of a loved one. It's not just about preparing a delicious meal, it's about connecting with people you love, forming new relationships, and remembering the reason why we care for others.
"And I believe Jesus asked us to remember Him during the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine every time, every meal, every day - no matter where we are, who we are what we've done. If we only practice remembrance every time we take Communion at church, we miss three opportunities a day to remember. What a travesty! Eugene Peterson says that 'to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.' Yes, that, exactly. To those of us who believe that all of life is sacred, every crumb of bread and sip of wine is a Eucharist, a remembrance, a call to awareness of holiness right where we are."
Don't get me wrong, I love to plan parties and entertain friends and family at our house but I often times have to check myself to make sure I am not doing it as a performance but doing it out of love. I'm reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus' feet and there is Martha, busy at work in the kitchen again. :) This Martha, not unlike Ms. Stewart, thought that the most important thing was getting everything done and perfect for her guest, but Jesus reminded her that the most important thing was to just be with and listen to Him. Likewise, when we have friends and family over, we should be with them and bless them with encouragment and fellowship. So the chicken was a little overcooked and the house not 100% clean, the point of having your loved ones there is to love them, not put on a show.
"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel at home."
Sauna is such a lovely person. I couldn't help but want her as my own friend to gab with for hours while we cook in the kitchen. I guess until that day I will settle with enjoying her book and amazing recipes!