Tuesday, October 04, 2016

On being shy, communication, disagreement and the next generation

We're one month into 3's preschool. The anticipation has worn and it's routine now. We are thankful for routines, they keep us steady. I have to be honest this school year has brought with it far too much anxiety on my part that I'm sure is unnecessary. It's in my fleshy nature to want to know how I can control the situation and how I can maximize every opportunity to it's greatest potential. This fall has been an exercise in submitting my control and in general, relinquishing the fact that I cannot make the day any more profitable for my children than what it will be without one key factor-prayer. 

Both of my children are introverted when they are not in their comfort zone. They take a long time to warm up to people. Even family members that they see regularly sometimes feel that the twins don't "like" them because they will not talk to them. I always have to put my best foot forward when going into public situations with my kids and remind myself not to talk for my children or do things for them just to avoid awkward situations or to avoid people thinking that my kids are so rude for not saying a word to them. At some point I have to just get over that and be ok with the fact that my kids are who they are and they will learn to socialize as they watch their dad and I socialize and not be spending our time always apologizing for them; I don't know how healthy that is for their self esteem. The truth is that's not all that they are and that's not the message I want to send to their little consciences. The truth is that they are very friendly little people who are incredibly loving and interested in how life works for others. They have many words to ask these questions and express their love for others when in the comfort of their own homes; somehow we need to help their small 3 year old world expand into sharing those words and that love to those around them more openly when it's appropriate. The mind of a child is like a sponge. It soaks up everything you show them and verbalize to them about themselves. If I tell a child's teacher, grandparent, friend all of the time that he/she is shy, the child begins to believe that about him/herself. If this being "shy" is painted in a light that is negative and as unacceptable then the child soon begins to believe that his/her personality is not likable and is not useful. How sad. I do not want to do that to my kids. 

The power of example is huge for children. Children will listen to our lives far better than they will listen to our words as a parent. So while it will be important for my husband and I to continue to encourage our twins verbally to "use their words" with their friends, teachers, and family, it will be far more important for us to show them how good conversation happens. Even how good disagreement happens. This one is a sticky one for me. I do not do well with disagreement; I never have. I don't like confrontation and I do not like when one person confronts another in my presence. I am not naive enough to believe that disagreement never happens. No, disagreement needs to happen in some cases. In many cases disagreement is the beginning of renewal and renovation of something that was broken. We need disagreement but we need to know how to do it well and we need to know how to display it well for the next generation so that they can know how to solve rather than create more problems. Fighting with cruel words and undercuts or constantly putting yourself or another up on a pedestal and cutting down the person you're in conflict with is not the way. We have to be willing to try to see things from another's view point before we can make real change. Sometimes you are the one who needs to be willing to change and your kids need to be able to see humility. This doesn't mean being a doormat but rather a doorway. Being open to the idea of change and if that change happens to mean that you need to get flexible or be willing to do something differently then we need to be open to the idea. There will be times when we cannot agree and we may need to walk away from it. Not in anger or harshness but just trusting that God will lead you in the way you should go. 

As a nation we are on the verge of a very controversial election with many opinions about how things should be done and who should lead and why. There is the fight for women, the fight for the underprivileged, the fight for the rich, the fight for the layman, the fight for the sexually confused, the fight for the wall the fight against the wall, the fight for Isreal, the fight to stay out of Isreal. With all of these fights and so many more what are we to do? Curl up in a ball and close our eyes until it's over and just accept whatever wave of change happens? I would like to suggest that like all of my anxiety over my 3 year old's preschool and all of their schooling years to come tossing over me in waves, prayer needs to be our place of trust. We may not understand the candidates in this election or the screams of culture swirling around us but we can know that God that made us and made this world. He has a plan and He hasn't given up on that plan. Yes it may not make much sense to us right now but does that matter? We are finite, he is infinite. So let us pray, let us vote, then let us parent this generation of children to know God by following Him with our lives. 

God is great, and greatly to be praised. He can be trusted. Read with me Nahum 1:6-8 

"God is good,

    a hiding place in tough times.
He recognizes and welcomes
    anyone looking for help,"

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Back to the Grind

Goodbye summer, hello autumn. It happens just like that; all of your summer trips over and the weather turning cooler. Here on the farm we are getting back into the swing of things with the return to projects and turning our attention towards school. 

This year our twins are turning 4 and although they've already had a year of preschool playgroup under their belts the school year will look slightly different for them this coming fall as they go twice a week and I will not be staying to play with them. Like many sets of dizygotic twins, we have one who is very eager to go to school and ready for socializing, another who is nervous about being at school without mom and not so keen on all the people there. It will be an adventure no doubt watching it all unfold the first few weeks as they adjust. 

The real question is how will I adjust? I feel very grateful to have been given the gift of time with my kids during their young years. I know that it is a gift that so many would love to have and I do not take it lightly. Now that we move into a time where I will be without them for a few hours a couple of days a week I am feeling a little panicky. As in, what am I doing with my life?! There is so much meaning in my time at home with my children. So many things to do in one day, laundry, projects, crafts, learning around every corner, growing up. All of these things will still need to happen of course but they will look very different with my kids off to school for a large chunk of the day for their lessons. rearranging my routine and finding a new groove is the name of the game this year. Maybe part of it is that I'm turing thirty this year. Oh boy, is this an early mid-life crisis?! 

Prior to having my children I worked at a bookstore during college and then moved on to working in the business office of a retirement facility while teaching ESL during the harvest months here in Michigan. I've often wondered if I would ever go back to doing that kind of work. I am certified after all, to teach ESL but is that where my giftings are best suited? My mind whirls and spins about all kinds of scenarios of life working with children or choosing to stay at home primarily and do volunteer work on the side. If life with Epilepsy, Infertility, twins, brain surgeries and stroke recovery has taught me anything it's this; slow down and trust today to God, the details will come together as they come. 

So for now I will remind myself to stop and sit a while with God. Take in a coffee shop and a book as my littles learn at their preschool. Go to a Bible study at a church I've never been to because it's close to their school. Meet new people and let God lead the conversations. 

Maybe these things will eventually lead to a volunteer position somewhere, maybe a job, or maybe great friendships along the way. Perhaps none of those things and that's alright too. We shall see. 

Breathe deep mama, you and your littles are in the hands of a mighty God who can handle the details of life. Let go and live. 

Hei-Hei! ("bye-bye" Finnish style) ;>

PS. if you've been looking for updates on Friday and haven't seen them, you're not alone. :D This chick went on an unintentional (but refreshing) blogger vacation after the "Friday Baby!" post and didn't ever get a post up on a Friday after that lol. Oh well. Cheers to the new school year and new posts. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

His Hands Working in A Heavy World

The world is a heavy place these days. Sometimes I have to stop and remember that it has always been so; perhaps just in a quieter, less publicized form. Now, we get text alerts when there is breaking news around the world or we see it broadcasted live as it all unfolds. I think this adds up to a feeling of great oppression and confusion. For me at least, it leaves me breathless asking "what is going on!?" 

Today I took a drive just for the sake of clearing my head and to settle my heart. I live in the country so I decided to drive into the city for a change of pace. Usually driving to the city for me means running to a Dr. office or the grocery store and I end up rushing by the life taking place there. Today was different though. I went intently looking at what was going on around me. What I saw were people laughing together as they waited for the bus, road construction crews busily working hard to complete their task so that "life can move on", Trucks delivering goods to local shops creating commerce for our area, mothers and fathers with children in tow doing life together, youths hanging out because it's summer wading through the mirky waters of figuring out who they are and how they fit, houses being re-built after years of neglect and abuse with the hopes of a good life to come in it. 

We keep moving. We keep pressing on even when the news stands are full of hate, discrimination, violence, anger, and politics. Human kind was not intended for any of that. We need to move past the news and listen to real life. It is the half truth news that fuels dissension and upset of all kinds. We cannot get rid of the news or the publicity all together but we can work towards being selective about how we read the news and choosing not to judge until we know the story fully. There are some stories that we cannot fully know unless we go find out ourselves. Other stories we can get the truth through reliable social contacts who are, have been, or are working directly with those who are experiencing the news for themselves. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with my friends Joel & Terri Shafer who are working in Fiji. They are currently on the main Island just "doing life" with the locals. 

Joel works with The College of Theology and Evangelism Fiji which is an organization of Ambassadors for Christ South Pacific. He has all kinds of jobs that they need him to do, everything from general contracting to electrical or vehicle repair and anything in-between. The need for trained specialists in these areas is very high in Fiji, Joel says. He is looking forward to helping the College build a camp this coming year. Please pray about going to Fiji! Maybe you have a gift that they need!  

Terri get's to see life from a very different angle as life in Fiji is very different for women than the life of a women is in America. They have plenty of responsibilities and much hard work in raising their babies and taking care of their home but it looks very different than it does for the American housewife; there are no carpools or PTAs, no it is a much less busied pace than the one we keep in America but no less full. Terri has had to struggle a bit to find her place there but she has so many wonderful gifts and God has opened just the right doors for her to be able to reach out into her community there with those gifts. She recently took a job housesitting on one of the neighboring islands, Taveuni, about an 18 hour boat ride away from Fiji, but the house owner paid for her to have a plane ride there so she should come. During her stay, she encountered a group of physicians who were in great need of experienced Operating Room Nursing Staff. Not only that but the particular surgery that they were in such a great need for at that time was one that Terri was well trained in; ENT related. There are no such things as coincidence, just a great God who aligns His workers at exactly the right time for the work He has prepared them to do. This was definitely one of those times. The Hospital group that Terri worked with is not a faith based organization but after that week, the staff and Terri couldn't help but sit around and tell the story over and over about how God brought her at just the right time so that lives could be saved and they could go on with their surgeries. Today, Terri continues to work with that Hospital group, The Loloma Foundation. In addition, Terri is working to get grants and funding to supply materials and tools for her to teach weaving to the local women. They have many old shirts, rags and such that could be washed and used to weave rugs and other handmade goods to sell. Having the ability to sell something at market for your family is very important for a woman in Fiji and the surrounding islands. Terri would like to give women there the tools and knowledge they need to be able to have these goods to sell in market. Please pray for her as she continues to work toward that effort. 

As I sat listening to the Shafers and all they have experienced in the 9 months they were in Fiji so far I couldn't help but reflect on our own life here and how being "plugged in" all the time steals the life out of community and really experiencing loving people without the lens of media on. It has been a good kick in the pants so to speak to remember to unplug more and just get into the world and experience it, pray for it, let God lead your experiences and follow His leading. He certainly knows what he's doing. Even when this world looks bleak from the outside looking in let's push past that and really dig in and get to know what it is God is at work doing and then join Him in it. 


For more information about the Shafer's you can follow them at: His Work our Hands     

Friday, June 10, 2016

Not by Flesh But by Spirit Will We Conquer!

All around us are advertisements for a better body, strength comparisons, and health companies. Even in the Christian circle we see people advertising their bodies as a product of strength as if it were God's ultimate gift to us to be in perfect physical condition always. Not surprisingly, these people usually gain the most online followers too; who doesn't want to be in better physical condition? 
My question today is what is the value of physical fitness and what role does it play in our faith after you encounter a physical roadblock? 

Physical Activity and the Brain: Move it or Lose it

Research shows that bodily movement directly impacts brain chemistry. Since your brain is your God given hard drive it makes sense to spend some energy during the day in focused movement. In the Christian walk this focus needs to be kept in check so that it does not become our idol (our ultimate reward). There is purpose behind our focused energies and it should be to train like one preparing ourselves to meet the hardships that life brings. This idea is clearly discussed in Scripture in 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27 

Now Every Athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. they do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore, I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. 

I can heartily agree with Scripture's truth and research's observations about movement. 
Portaging in Algonquin Canada with our Sr. High Students

Exploring Yosemite National Park 
Log Slide climb, Grand Marais MI

Prior to 2012 I was living a relatively active and adventurous lifestyle. Brain Surgery and a mini stroke came in 2014 and threw something in my lap I had not expected at all-stillness.  

28 Depth electrodes placed bilaterally to find the trigger area(s) of my Epilepsy. 
Reunited after 3 weeks of being apart! :D Nothing is better than those sweet hugs! 

Life (and twins) move on even when hardship knocks the life out of you. You gotta' keep movin', even if just a little bit at a time. 
Do what you can and let yourself get okay with asking for help when you can't.  This lesson was HARD learned in my case. 
 After the Surgeries and my stroke the breaks were put on my active life in a big way and my physical state was depleted to doing just the basics both for myself and for my kids and husband. My amazing husband and our families were the ones who picked up the slack in caring for our then almost 2 year old twins, groceries, laundry, lawn care, house care, etc. I can see now though that it was my kids, my husband's love for the outdoors, and our small farm that kept me moving towards both physical health and brain health.

Is Physical & Brain Health the Goal of Life?

The scripture we read earlier answers that question quite clearly that physical health is not the goal of life but rather a means to clearly accomplishing our calling; to proclaim the Gospel (The good news of Christ's death and resurrection from the dead as atonement for our sins making propitiation for us) to others and all things pertaining to it. 

When I don't FEEL like I can move on. 

Honestly, when life's hardships knock you down and box you around it is incredibly difficult to just get back up and fight so that you can say you are stronger in the end. Most of the time you would rather curl up and forget the world around you. Many facing life threatening illnesses, disabilities, or mental illness have to fight the physical battle of what their going through and also the emotional battle of grieving the life they expected to be having. Grief is real and it in itself can be debilitating. So what do we do when we're not feeling up to the fight? 

Let God fight with you

I like the story in 2 Chronicles 32:1-8 because it's a story about God's people being invaded by the king of Assyria. The people did their part, they were't lazy they got moving and did what they needed to do to protect their city and their walls but at the end of the day it was the emotional battle that was a greater fight. Doubt. The king of Israel, Hezekiah, gathers his people together and encourages them with these words: 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles." 2 chronicles 32:7 

The thing is we still serve that God today. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will still fight with his people and I love that in this verse we can clearly see that when we feel like our "flesh" is weak and doesn't add up to much we have a God that is much stronger than flesh because He is the creator of that and everything else. He can and will use even our weakest parts to teach and preach the fruits of His spirit when we are willing to offer up our best and give him room to do whatever He sees fit to do with it. We have to be willing to do our part and even trudge through the trenches of grief with Him. Be assured though that He will not leave you there. 

90 Stairs down to Lake MI in Manistee, MI :D 

My beautiful friend Anna and I half-way through a 4 mile walk along the Manistee River this past week! Praise God I was able to do the whole walk without trouble! woot woot ;D 

Keep going, keep moving, let your light shine! 


Friday, June 03, 2016

Friday baby!

It's almost Friday and over here we're all geared up and ready for a fun filled weekend. We cannot get enough of the outside in the short span of our Michigan summer so we typically try to pack as much life as we can into a four month time frame. 😎 Hang on tight! This weekend it's Lake Michigan's shores and dune slides at Pioneer Park in Muskegon, MI! Photos to come later. 

Here's one from nearby Grand Haven, MI Lighthouse with my friend Chaille. She is one of God's great treasures to me! 

How do you spend your summer? I'd love to hear your feedback and get some new ideas about what we could do with our 3 year old twins from some of you who have littles. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Brain Surgery: Two Year Anniversary

Here we are at the crossroads of my 2 year anniversary of having my Deep Brain Stimulator put in and not only that but I am now 9 Months seizure free ^^ Insert big woot woot here ^^ and I'm going to try to write again. 

Recently, I found a friend in the writing world who, not so coincidentally, (because I don't believe in coincidence) is also celebrating her 2 year anniversary from having brain surgery and chronic pain issues. She and I have been corresponding over the past week pretty in depth about our situations and recovery and how writing has been a constant in our lives before and after our surgeries. I so admire how she has used writing as a tool for healing both physically and emotionally from her circumstances. Writing was something that became difficult for me because I had a hard time stringing together coherent thoughts for a long time after the stroke that I became so discouraged with writing that I gave up for a long time. I did not give up reading however, that has stayed constant in my life and because of that my devotional time in God's word has stayed present, probably more so than ever before, and also I've read through so many books that I never thought I would pick up before. 

One day about 3 months ago I got really frustrated with something I was reading because I just couldn't fully understand it without creating some sort of info graph to go along with it so I did what I haven't done in a long time, I pulled out the old journal. This time I wasn't using my journaling as a vent for my feelings or emotions at the beginning, I simply was writing out thoughts about what I was reading and creating an info graph to go along with the concepts I was reading to help me along.  I soon realized that the longer I journaled through the book I inadvertently was also sharing my emotions and feelings about my struggles with information processing in my journal. Funny how that happens. I kept up the journaling with the next book I read because I realized that the more I read and put things to paper as I was reading the better I was able to string together coherent thoughts so this process has become like therapy for me.  

My new friend's encouragement has sparked in me a desire to try again. So this is hopefully the beginning of a new era for the blog. I can't make promises but I want to keep things fresh here, honest, open, and inviting. I will share what's going on in my world with JW & our twins, the silly stuff that happens here on our small farm and I would also like to share with you the things of God that are going on all around us; what He's doing and how we can choose to see Him and share Him in the midst of a lot of pain and crazy all around us.

Will you join me every Friday for a cup of coffee and a post update? I will update the blog sometime Thursday night so it will be fresh on Friday. 

For my friend's writings you can visit: The UNEDITED Movement Blog Look for Alyssa Landreth's posts 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Out with Winter in with Spring!

With winter coming to an end I realize that I never formally told you about our fun photo shoot day with my wonderful friend Chaille, with Vintage Oasis Photography. You can find their complete collection online at vintageoasisphotography.com or find their link on Facebook.

We had a beautiful wintery day way back at the beginning of the winter and we embraced it by updating our family pictures and grabbing some fun shots of the twins since it was right around their birthday. 

Now that we are heading into spring we are ready to start seeing green grass again and see the kids running around outside all day! Today we even saw a robin on our bird feeder; a sure sign of spring here on the ranch. 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending my Saturday with friends learning to use my sewing machine all over again and sewing a pretty beach tote bag with Amanda Ondersma, owner of Toad and Bean. Amanda does classes for kids and parents most of the time but this was a special weekend event for us "old ladies" to learn from her. ;-) We had such a great time and it was a great kick off to spring and all of the fun spring projects that we now have more confidence to accomplish. 

May you have a wonderful March and enjoy the beginnings of Spring! 

God Bless,