Friday, February 26, 2016

A Winter Greenhouse

lift off

For some of the coldest weeks this winter, our family was outrageously blessed to be able to travel to the sun.  It was more deeply encouraging time than even I, the optimist, had hoped for.  Just like our Father to pull a little trick like that, eh?   Lavish, lavish grace...

We felt crazy blessed to get to be in Thailand for some family time alone for rest and memories together (this pool lasted for at least a full work week of hours, only-break-for-sleep, swim-while-the-sun's-up gladness for our crew.)  We kept it very simple...  groceries for breakfast and lunch out of our tiny kitchenette and dinner on the beach for some authentic Thai curries and seafood for about $2-3 / person.  Gotta love deliciousness that cheap!

all the silly monkeys...
tuk tuk
new friends
Such a gift to meet this Swedish family...  the super cool mom and dad had both immigrated to Sweden with their parents from Iran in the 80s.  Our kids loved these two sweet boys!  
The one main break we took from our simple plan was a day of splurging- Grandma and Grandpa's Christmas gifts covered this experience gift(Thank you guys!!).  Our kids enjoyed their first ever theme park:  Vana Nava waterpark.  What a crazy cool, fun, new place with all the best and better kinds of slides than Matt and I could remember.  Our whole crew was pretty starry eyed, and totally exhausted, after the day there!

Then we got to head off to another city and meet up with precious friends.  And again, how fun to enjoy Thailand's sweet prices!  The afternoon at this awesome indoor climbing gym (another first for our crew) was about $6 USD and we had spectacular buddies to play with there!

a few took took rides (with big boys on the battery for a seat) and that last, last minute decision of "what's for dinner?" and we ended up with this riverside(-roadside) picnic.... all sparklingly blessed
Between these two stops (above and below) we spent some time at the dentist and meeting with a teacher from the states who came to help several homeschooling families in Asia.  I'll tell you, foreigners living in Asia know the best spots to spend Chinese New Year (since our cities all shut down for two weeks or so!)...  There were lots of friends to play with and great hearts to be super encouraged by in these days, I got a fancy hair cut (again, for cheap! love that!),  and we ate some super yummy food.  There were loads of good things packed into this time.   Grace.

Now that we're home again, I really do feel like we've just been in a greenhouse.  Sunshiny and warm, soul-nourished and full of growth, life, character fruit...  may it be, Lord, that you would bear much fruit in our lives, our family, from your Word planted deep and shined bright on in this time.

Since her "dives" looked more like a bent forward step into the water, Matt wanted to give her a taste of what she should be feeling when she enters the water, head first for real dive.

nothing says Sillybadilly like this girl's dancing!
We got a new board game to play on the iPad.  Agricola.  It started off capturing their interest, but in the end, it seems to be appreciated about as much as a list of chores or a few pages of math.  We've decided to use "Agricola" (accented like we were told the Germans do:  a- GRI- co- la) as K family slang for no good at all.  

next month, this guy will be double digits...  Couldn't love him more!
daddy-daughter-love.  perfect place of rest for her.  

our crew of silly-messy swimmer heads

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Core of our Home

I think this first draft was completed by mid November last year.  It just needed a few more edits.  Then there were holidays and a few weeks of no internet and then we travelled 
Finally, it's post-able!

I remember the guy who exhorted my high school-age crowd to stoke the fire of our hearts in worship.  He shared about his wife and how he chose to keep his vows even if he wasn't feeling a flame all burning hot for her.  Sometimes because he wasn't feeling that spark, that was his best indicator that it was time to bring home some flowers or new music as a gift specifically to bless her and equally, to reignite passion in him for what he is vowed and committed to: to reignite joy for what he truly does cherish and wants to delight in more.

There are countless, important ways to apply this in life.  Out of all the messages I heard growing up in church, for some reason that one little loaf has been a lunch the Lord has fed me with over and over again.  It's pretty plain, but He's multiplied it in my life like only He can do.

And I've found myself surprised this fall to find it going farther than I knew, yet again.  In worship and in marriage, my vows need to be guarded and guided with intentionality, proactivity.  I'm finally seeing that the same blessing is there to be had in motherhood too: a holy and blessed commitment to choose joy and serve up joy for our kids as their Mom.

Grandma and Vivi at the merry-go-round in the park
Just after the music ended and she had to be pulled off her pony...  Exactly the moment when she heard me say, "Vivi, the merry-go-round guy said you can get back on for another spin."  
I was thinking of this post a few weeks ago, imaging it titled "That lesson I'm learning from Grandma." Dale and Mary were with us for two weeks earlier this fall.   Matt's mom, Mary, has this gift down.  The woman is a joy warrior who intentionality picks up each of our kids and shakes off their grumps and fusses and speaks to each heart how they are especially loved.  (OK, she lacks the blow-open-the Red-Sea power of God so occasionally even she hasn't been able to calm down a bicker battle- we do have our share of doozies).  Still, she seeks each of her grandkids out, to hug them deeply, to look into their eyes and ask them how they're doing and watch them share their drawings and lego creations and listen to their stories (even the forever long, plotless wolf stories:  "and then he... and then... and then...").   She gives joy, creates joy in a way that changes the tone of our kids' hearts and of our home.

As I reflected on our time with Grandma and the ever-steady blessing that Grandpa is in our lives too, the blur of memories, fun, gifts, candy, and laundry they left after their visit finally settled into seeing for me a few weeks after they headed back to the states.

Joy is a choice.  (Yea, I knew that before... but I see it better now.)  

And I want it like a solid ring on my finger, binding my heart and soul to a vow of holy, chosen joy.  I want this beautiful thing as the backbone of our home.  I want the miracle of joy in the midst of our crazy kid, messy mess.  I want it for us and for our kids and for the world around us to see the lighthearted freedom, the laugh at the days to come and laugh at this spilled-milk world, kind of joy living right here, with us.  

Tickle tackle in the living room...

...that ended with a stinky stink bomb out that little, red velvet back-side!
This isn't just a canned happy feeling, "ignorance is bliss" blindness,  and it's not a matter of random acts of kindness or loving yourself enough.   I won't have the strength or energy for this most days.  But I'm not the Source.  Joy is a gift of the Saving God, purchased for us with his own blood.  It's why He's commanded us to serve one another above ourselves ( Romans 12:10) so that He can bring it about.  Joy is the stuff of His heart and His kingdom.  

And joy isn't the first of His fruits...  it's listed second to love as the fruit of His Spirit.   I'm just thinking that where there is joy, where we're actually living out the Sunday School lesson-  Jesus, Others, Yourself-  that's going to be when we're living filled by and fueled with His love.  Joy shows us that Love is Here. 

For us this fall, there's been a heap of joy to be had and even the help of simply aiming for JOY as I've been learning to better pursue my kids individually.   This is what Grandma modeled so well.   I've had a slim vision for years that my job is to be the party planner and to plan for their joy.  Yes.  Plural joy is a celebration and I hope we're always ready for that.  Generally speaking, I think we've done ok on this part.  But to bring it home, bring it deep and singular, for just two of us at a time, personal, that's the joy I'm finding now.  

There's a small tribe of these treasures (only four) and yet even in their little plurality they can feel like an overwhelming majority to me.  But oh what joy to pursue my kids individually. Hugs and greetings in the morning, snuggles in the kitchen, hand holds and "thanks you-s" and listening long and "hows it going?"  I don't want to take for granted that these precious people live in my home!   I want to point them toward the joy of giving thanks to the Lord for our moments together, for the blessings and even the skinned knees and the hard lessons too.  I so want to treasure these moments here and now with these fast-growing, fast-changing, eternally exquisite lives.