Saturday, April 22, 2017

at the heart

What a season...  An exclamation point could do here, but at the same time, it doesn't fit.  Life has slowed and stilled on the blog front because it seems like the five lives with me in the house are growing and going at race pace with all the regular.... which I know well, is far less for us here than "the regular" stuff and pace of life in America.  But it makes me question my own soul- life and rest and growth in me- to see how halted life has been here- where my heart lives, where I love to pour out some overflow in the edge hours, once all the tucking in is done.

My desire and aim for our home is to be a loving, lively, living place....  A place for tender embraces and long looks into other's eyes to listen to tellers tell stories.  A place for  exuberance and silly and we-live-here kind of messes and hopefully enough manners learned and practiced to keep a mama sane and keep us somewhat doable for welcoming friends to come in.  A place for green things drinking in air and water and sunshine,  for fresh-baked smiles and licking our fingers, for songs sung loud and for Words written living, deep in our hearts, together.  And by the grace of God, I think we do live like this most days...  along with the ever-present backdrop of pretty continual bickering.  sigh.

This blog hasn't been so loved, or so living.  There are seasons for that.  And there's grace for that.  But I do look forward to cultivating more growth here again.  I long for soul growth in me again... for reading and writing and finding and creating beauty, for celebrating living.

I've missed birthdays...  I don't think I've ever skipped any blog record of kid birthdays in our home before.  But I have now.  Isaiah is ELEVEN and Vivian is SIX (she's even memorized A.A. Milne's poem for the occasion).  Isaiah had a great crew of young men over to our place for fun games and play and dinner and then they watched Fantastic Beasts.  I didn't snap a single picture and I woke up that night like my heart was stabbed when I realized it.  Vivian had an "easy party" (for mama's sake) the next day and we took her and two sweet girlfriends to Beauty and the Beast and beef noodle soup for lunch.  We even had some of our dear friends over that evening for cake and play to celebrate both of them together... a sweet first.

And my man, my dearest and bestest, my admired and delighted-in husband turned 40.   It went completely unmentioned and he's glad for that.  We're hoping to get the six of us to some mountains nearby for a first family camping trip and we'll mark it as Dad's (and Mom's since it will be right between our b-days) Fortieth celebration.

The two of us got lunch out -noodles too spicy for the kids to eat anyway- to celebrate our 13th anniversary too.  Still can't believe I get to be married to him.


When we were in the states, I got to be in a Wednesday morning Bible study with a group of saints and story-tellers and beautiful lovers of Jesus that I came to love deeply.  I think it was the youngest one there, who told us, teary-eyed, how her own soul felt a bit lost since she'd become a mama to two tiny ones.

I've been there.  (Hasn't every mama?)  But after that, for me, I was grateful to return to some more years of growth and awareness and expansion in my soul again.  It seems the cycle has come full swing though, and again, the past near-year or so has been a new stage of pruning.  Like the branches in our apartment complex that our kids grieved over: "Why do they have to be cut back so much!?"  "When will it ever have branches and leaves and fruit and flowers again!?"

Today I cleaned the house and decided I'd let the time spent wiping and washing be restful, take pleasure in the beautifying of this place we're blessed to call home.  Let it be slow and enjoy the transformation.  No need to race through this too as if efficiency at all things is the only way a thing matters.  I planted seeds too, on our patio, that I feel like royalty to get to have here in a packed and run-down city.  I'm going to put out the hammocks this evening and watch the clouds.  

Tomorrow is another day for work.  There will be plenty of it and it is of eternal value and our labor in this is not in vain.  This I trust.  But a day off is good.  God took the day off after he had worked six good days and how can I do any better?

I can't.

Matt told me a few months ago that it seems like I assume a thing doesn't exist unless it's been spoken or recorded...  What he noticed was sadly true in me and I need to recognize it's untrue to believe.  There is so much in him, in me, in our home and kids and life all around us that is living and growing even if I don't have words that can hold it, a shutter that can capture it, eyes to recognize it at all.  Give us grace, Lord, to live it.  I want to give all that I can to live every moment the fullest full for God's glory- even when there's no pencil and paper or blog to type on or camera to record it.  But too, it is in the naming of gifts, the counting them, the remembering them and celebrating and pondering and recognizing anew... that life is stirred in the depths.  It doesn't have to be everything, every time...  but a record of graces, a place to ponder these gifts, is for me, itself a place of birthing and beholding life.  (HT:  Ann V.)

So here's to renewed reading and writing, to some homemade sangria on the patio on another day off, to guitar strumming and listening long and serving each other,  and capturing still shots of all this living, this growing grace I'm so privileged to see and to serve.

Now for the rest of this day to be restful in ways that allow for the stirring up of life under the soil in me too.

May it be, Lord, for Your glory.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

stateside gifts....

Warning... this is just for the family record.  Waaaaay to long for non-family to read!

A few pics from Conway Little League Fall Ball.  (The mama here is only a few months behind on posting pics!!)  This little hole in the dugout was the perfect spot for John to send out his requests for snacks and drinks and for his sisters to indulge him.) 

He had a great coach and team of good boys to play with...  we're so grateful for this opportunity!

And the participation trophy!  He hardly put it down for a few days.  (Matt barely made it through one of those days with out at least a few snarky comments about how everybody gets a trophy these days... but still, he loves his boys!) 

My big guy....(on the right, pitching! forgive the poor photo please?)  My camera was broken for most of their season and right when I got a new one, this guys last game was at night when it was pitch black.   Good thing he played much better than his mama did for photos!

Fall Ball was a big one... but there have been dozens more incredible gifts for our boys.  They both progressed well in schooling (John finally coming towards more confident reading on his own), and they made just a few good friends at their little school.   AWANAS @ KPCO was a gift-  John got the Sparky and several awards and Isaiah was Nov Clubber of the Month.  They both loved the games and got more of God's Word in their hearts.  They even got to enjoy Kennedy Space Center with precious AWANAS friends...

And the Howdies were here (friends from China that "just happened" to be in Orlando the same season as us!?).  Some fun times at the lake and swimming and lego-ing with those guys!  And there was that time that the kids and I were enjoying some grass therapy at our little campground front yard (along with a some cheddar popcorn) and we watched, just sat there with front row seats, for a little plane to fly across the lake and take flight- straight off the water.  

The boys learned to do a bit of hard work cleaning up at our old rental house.   And there was swimming for homeschool recess while we stayed with our dear friends, the "Shacks".  Crazy amazing blessings!  Isaiah got up on water-skis.  There was a Gatorland outing gifted to them with yet more and super precious China friends.  There were splash pad and library visits- where our big guy got hooked on the Redwall (by Brian Jacques) series.   We ate ice cream and these two alone ate at least two dozen bags too many of tortilla chips.  The kids got to pick out a live Christmas tree for the first time :).

And... we got to spend the week before Christmas at the beach.  First, wonderful time for that!!!  Not only did dear friends gift us with 5 days to spend at their *beautiful* condo at New Smyrna Beach, but Bart and Judy worked it into their schedule to join us for the last two days, once we saw that the condo had space for 8!  Such a blessed time!

Then there's the grandparents. What a gift to get time with them in January as Dale and Mary have bounced between two central FL brothers' homes and stopped at our little cabin by the lake in between.   The kids had an overnight with their grandparents at Uncle Tony's place by his church on the beach.... and they got wristbands so they could ride limitlessly at the church carnival.  They came home starry-eyed (and Matt and I enjoyed two super fun double dates~ with the Johnsons and the Dys~ and got the bulk of our crazy load of packing done while they were gone too!)  There was a bit of overthetop-ness in lego indulgence from these Grands at one point, and that outing was crowned with a heap of Chick-fil-A goodness too.  Speaking of the beloved fast-food, that has sure become a solidly established favorite too!  

Matt and I wanted to treat his parents to something- since we're so regularly on the receiving end with those two!- and we thrilled to get all eight of us into Medieval Times with a discount for a super fun, memorable, enjoyable night.  

Before Christmas we moved from our friends' lovely home to a darling little cabin in a campground by the lake where Matt and I were married.  It's beautiful.  John came alive fishing for tadpoles, and little fish and shrimp, by just plunging cups or buckets in the water.   Sweetest cheer to hear Isaiah boast in John's fishing skills and perseverance.  Our campground living provided fooseball, canoes and a kayak, and more picnics on the grass for talking time together... (I hope they loved this as much as I did!)  and the cabin's in a good place for us to get to see more of the legend, Jonathan McK, who our boys love....  the trio proved to be tough in the Ninja Zone class they got to enjoy three times for free!    

Our entire time in the states was bookmarked by two fantastic weeks with the Bismarck Ks....  the first week was for Dale and Mary's 40th anniversary (how fantastically awesome of them to celebrate their anniversary by inviting all of us to join them for a week!?) and the last week we gathered for cousin Lee and beautiful Aubrey's wedding, which was fantastically located in Central Florida!    Here's the amazing grands, and our kids with their treasured cousins....

Initially I was going to write a whole post about the boys and one for the girls... but alas, this one is already too long and there'd be too many repeats so I'll just make the girls a PS on this post and pray for grace to cover me in years to come when they see how I've treated them.  I'm sorry dear loves.   It's time to just get this darn thing posted!

Girlies...   You were pure JOY to witness this fall...  Marian, you tasted your first (at least the first that you really noticed and remembered) rice krispie bars in August when Grandma Marian brought them to Blackduck and you got her to teach you all her skill that very afternoon.   Then we arrived back in Orlando about 13 hours before your first day of school, where you were really nervous, didn't know anyone, hadn't ever been to a school or school in America or ... lots of stuff was brand new and you were nervousexcitedscared.  The second Monday (second day of school at their homeschool-type school) you brought rice krispie bars to share and I'm pretty sure the entire school felt like you were their friend by the end of day two.  When we left in Feb you gave photo frames to three girls:  your BFF at church, at school and at Awana.  I love this about you.  

Vivian, you grew so much!  Truly, I think you gained the most height this season.  And you blossomed with more of your own sparky delightful personality.  When I asked you what one special thing you wanted to do, you were sure it was ballet.  So we signed you up and bought the tutu and the shoes at Once Upon a Child.  And then you saw Marian's first day at gymnastics and you were tearfully positive that you Really wanted to do gymnastics.  But you finished the month and one recital (that you stayed backstage for the entirety of!) somewhat valiantly before you started in gymnastics as well.... and you did wonderfully!  Both you girls were promoted after just a few lessons when instructors saw your skill and hard work.  That made your mama so proud!

Vivi, you also loved school and counted all of your classmates as your friends.  (I think there were only about 8 students in your class?)  And I love that you are bold and brave to enjoy the little men around you- unafraid even when teased by your siblings for connecting with the little brothers of their friends or enjoying the little guys in your class.  Way to go dear.  This blessing is richly yours, for a girl who is growing up so loved by so many- brothers and sister, mom and dad, grandparents....  I'm praying for all the future friendships and for the future spouses of each of you treasured kids!