Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things

One of the weirdest things about blogging, in my opinion, is that's it's hard to do without feeling incredibly self-promoting. There are many blogs I follow and feel super challenged and encouraged by, but each time I pick up my proverbial pen to write a new entry of my own, I feel... well... off. There is this tension of wanting to share the light-hearted happenings of my family and yet also to write encouraging, uplifting, Christ-exalting things. The later of these two, I feel utterly inadequate to recommend myself for. I don't write as one with authority or claiming any expertise, nor do I have any special gift towards communicating things divine.

If you want any of those things, please go visit the blogs of these incredible ladies.

All I know is I love Christ. He graciously saved me when I was dead in my sins and fought against Him with every fiber of my being. He's captivated my heart with the profound love He displayed on the cross. He makes life fresh and new and full of hope and longing. He gives me joy in raising four crazy, wonderful little children. He sustains me living far far away on a tiny island far from family and familiarity. He fills my heart with ooshy gooshy love for the man I was blessed to marry.

So, that being said, sometimes I may just post pictures of my family and silly anecdotes. Other times I may try to wax poetic and pen the profound, but feel free to view them as just the mere musings of a nobody. For that I am, and that I'm content to be. A nobody saved and loved by somebody.

That being said :-) Here are a few light-hearted things I've been wanting to share.

If you're looking for any good books to buy someone for Christmas, here are three of my current favorites:

"1000 gifts" by Ann Voskamp. This book is hard to put down. It reads like a novel though it is really a very meaty spiritual book looking at the practice of giving thanks in all circumstances. It has truly been life-changing   for me to put into practice the art of being thankful even in the minute. You can find the book here.

"Give them Grace: Dazzling your kids with the Love of Jesus" by Elyse Fitzpatrick.  This is one of the best gospel-centered parenting books I've ever read. It is very practical (it's co-authored by Elyse's daughter) and full of examples. What I appreciate about it is how it takes the gut-wrenching meanness you can sometimes feel when disciplining and parenting and replaces it with a true compassion and gospel-centered hope for your kids.  You can find it here.

"Voices from the Past" edited by Richard Rushing. I've never been a big fan of devotionals. I've always thought my time was better spent reading the Bible itself instead of other's thoughts on the Bible. However, this treasure of a book has won me over. It's a compilation of Puritan writings, given one page per day. They are short but incredibly profound. Not one day has passed where that day's reading hasn't deeply impacted me. If you're a fan of "The Valley of Vision," you'll LOVE this book. (but you should still read the Bible too.) You can find it here.

As I was reading another blog about buying Christmas presents for kids, I was impacted by something she said. She said the best gifts are those that inspire exploration and not adoration. For an example of what she means and links to some great toys, go here.

Finally, just this morning, I came across some new music I just love. His name is Josh Garrels. The best part is, you can download his newest CD for FREE... right here.  If you're not sure you want to download it, here are youtube videos of two of my favorite songs: "Rise" and "Farther Along."

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Encouraging Music

Lately I've been so blessed by some "new" songs that I've added to my library. They are new to me, but I'm also probably at least a decade behind on the music scene. All the same, I wanted to share these gems with you in case you haven't yet heard them. Hopefully they are an encouragement to you...

All I Have is Christ (Sovereign Grace)

Remind me Who I Am (Jason Gray)

The Reckoning (Andrew Peterson)

Never Once (Matt Redman)

You can Have Me (Sidewalk Prophets)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today I am sad. It is completely a selfish sadness, and it swirls about with so much joy. How the two can intermingle so entirely without canceling each other out, I don't know.

But, there they are.

I rejoice today, because my sweet niece, Ellie, turns seven! Nathan and I were there when she was born, just one month after our wedding.

I also rejoice as on this same day, I gain a NEW niece, Emily, according to the law (though she's already been my niece for two years irregardless of the law.)

The last two years of her life have brought SO much uncertainty, tears, and hope. I'm so thankful that God has chosen to allow Emily to be my sister's daughter. She has been apart of her forever family now since she was 11 months old. She's now just over three years old. It's been a long time coming, sweet girl! Welcome! You couldn't ask for a better family!

You're probably wondering why I'm sad. Days like today make me feel to my bones the weight of living away from family. I'm on a little island on the other side of the world, 8 hours ahead of all of the celebrating. I want so badly to be in the courtroom today when Emily is declared "ADOPTED." I want so badly to see my sweet Ellie Bell blow out seven candles.

Days like to day remind me of how sweet Heaven will be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In over my Hair

I wasn't a very girly girl growing up. I couldn't even put my hair into a decent pony tail until college. (Please don't embarrass me by finding any of my high school yearbooks). I can't blame my mom... because I love her.  And I won't blame my sister... because... I love her too.  But, I can say, it's been a slow yet fun journey learning how to embrace femininity and also instill that quality into my little girl.

Eliana was born with a LOT of hair.

Her hair is soft and slippery, and it grows forward in a constant effort to hide her beautiful face from the world. I've tried clips, rubber bands, bangs, head bands- you name it. And while conceptually, Eliana likes the idea of looking like a princess, she has a severe case of the wiggles and apparently a VERY sensitive scalp (and by "apparently" I mean, the girl could fall off of a small cliff, break bones, need sutures, and still dust herself off and say, "I fell" and then run off into the sunset. So, I'm not buying her "you're hurting my head!" act.)

Anyway, inspired by my dear friend Brittany's faithfulness to braid and care for her daughter's hair, leaving Sophie the constant love of my dear Elijah's life... I thought I'd try to braid Eliana's bangs this morning.

After a fairly sloppy attempt at a french braid, the hair behind it launched a massive offensive and plunged right over the braid and promptly hid Eliana's face. Undeterred, I grabbed another wad of hair, and with equally deliberate sloppiness, I forced it into a braided line. The hair behind that decided to try something new. It launched itself straight up in the air then fell in a disorganized heap down the back of her head.

So, one thing led to another, and Eliana ended up with a head-full of five sloppy braids. I think it suits her. It's cute, spunky, and despite all attempts to contain it, it still marches to its own beat.

If any of you women out there, seasoned with femininity want to offer me any bi-racial hair care advice, I'm all ears! (or thumbs).

Monday, September 12, 2011

One Beautiful Rock

My sweet boy came home from school today and declared he had a surprise for me. He was so excited... and so I was a bit befuddled when he pulled a rock out of his pocket. 

My "um...oh...." turned into a mushy "Awe!!" when he explained it's purpose. 

He said, "Now when you miss me or think about me during the day, you can put the rock in your hands and pray for me, since I'm where the rock came from."


Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Biblical Role of Women

I listened to a sermon this morning, which was a breath of fresh air for me, yet I know the topic is a very controversial one. What should the role of women be in the family? Should they be the bread winners? Cook and clean? Are they less important? More important? The pants wearers? Heck, is there any need for a man or husband in the home at all? As suggested by so many, would my kids really be better off being at school at 2 or 3 years of age? With a nanny? Can a teacher teach my kids to share? Not be picky eaters? Be independent and well adjusted? In today's culture, it is super offensive to suggest that a women belongs at home. Even yesterday, I met with blank stares and gasps of shock when I suggested I actually LIKED being home with my kids, and I didn't want them to go to school at 2 or 3 as I LIKE to be the one to teach them, nurture them, discipline them, and yes, help them not be picky eaters. I also LIKE to take care of my home and my husband. Even more importantly, who else could better model to a child a life lived to obey God, to love Him and serve others (apart from dad, of course!) I am so thankful that God has blessed me with these five people to love, serve, and minister to. I'm frankly tired of feeling like I have to apologize to people for my choice to stay home and serve my family and seemingly waste my education.

I encourage you to listen to this sermon and think about it. If you don't believe in God, or you don't think that God's Word, the Bible is true, then this will more than likely make you angry or it will just seem ridiculous. But, for me, Alistair's sermon was a breath of fresh air as I get so tired of feeling pressured to bend and twist God's Word to look like our culture. I would much rather see our culture bend and twist to line up with God's Word. Imagine what a world that would be?! Husbands leading and loving. Wives loving, nurturing, and respecting. Children obeying and honoring. Workers working hard and being honest.

Oh how grievous sin is, that it's mangled God's good plan for us. I'm so thankful that God sent Christ to die for our sins so that we no longer have to be slaves to sin, and we have a hope in Heaven, when all will be made right again.

And in case you're wondering... by being a mere house wife, I don't feel enslaved, hindered, or devalued. I feel FREE.

Here's the sermon:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A rather long post...

This week has been nerve wracking, sad, joyous, victorious, and entirely covered by God's grace. On Wednesday, I watched my baby (wasn't he a baby just yesterday?) walk out the door for his first day of school. I know this is nothing new to parents around the globe, but for me, it was hard(er) on many fronts. I remember my first day of kindergarten. Both of them.

(That's me with the mullet and coke bottle glasses)

I began one every-other-day class at the beginning of the year, but then had to join the other, every-other-day class half way through the year to be able to continue my meeting with the school speech therapist (yes, I had the "cute" habit of saying, "I'm sowy, did da thiwy wabbit go dat way?") Anway, I hid in the closet, petrified as to why on earth MY classroom was filled with DIFFERENT kids. Thankfully, my big sister grabbed the closest girl she could find, flung open the closet door, and said, "Look Julie, this is your new friend, Gina!" I got over my shock fairly quickly- after all, everyone spoke English, looked similar to me, and played outside on the same huge playground and grassy field.

For me, Elijah starting school has been me putting to death a lot of my own expectations and familiarities. He is probably the only American to ever attend his school. He is the only toe-head in his class. He speaks approximately 20 words of Spanish (thankfully, "may I go to the bathroom" being among them"). There is no playground (only a concrete patio with toys parents donate). There is no grass. Really. He doesn't go to a cafeteria for lunch (they eat a snack at 10am, then eat lunch at 2pm when school is out). He is now being told that all of the letters of the alphabet sound completely different than his mommy taught him. He sees bullies picking on little kids and doesn't know how to say anything, so he just hides. He also has to remember that his name is now Elias (Aye-Lee-Us) and not Elijah.

But, you know what....? He loves it! He hasn't cried once! He is excited to leave and excited when he comes home. Isn't it a blessing if he can't get grass stains on his pants? The boy will be bilingual by next June! He will learn to listen, read people, be sensitive, be intuitive. I imagine there will be tears shed this year (by more than him), but I believe God is sovereign, and in control over every aspect of our lives. God knew, before he was born, that Elijah would be raised cross-culturally. I can trust that God will use all of these circumstances to form him into the man he's supposed to become. It is my role to, with an open, yet close hand, watch and support as God does a work in my little man's life. This school adventure is just another opportunity for me to "be still and know that HE is GOD."

I remember one wise, weathered mother telling me that it's good to create an environment in your home that makes your kids happy to return after their day at school. I wanted yesterday (Elijah's first day of school) to be special, so I baked his favorite sugar cookies. I made him a dolphin, as they are his favorite mammal.

(but now the problem is, he expects baked treats every day... sigh)

What has been an unexpected and wonderful discovery is that the other kids are THRIVING in their new found roles. Levi LOVES being the "oldest" for part of the day. He is so much calmer than his big brother. He takes his school time with me very seriously, and is very motivated to learn to read right now. He likes being put in charge of things that used to fall on Elijah. He could spend the whole day doing art.

Eliana, who normally found her role in being the pesty, disruptive little sister who zinged in and out while the boys tried to do "school" with me, LOVES getting more focused attention, and so has jumped right into her role as student. Despite her apparent short-attention span, she is quite bright. I'm realizing that when it appears she's indifferent or not paying attention, she's secretly learning and retaining. Sly little thing :-)  She and Levi have gotten along considerably better with Elijah gone, and she's been much more joyful since she's receiving a lot more of my undivided attention.

Lucas, the silly fellow, spends 98% of his day in two activities: Trying to stand up on objects (and getting stuck there upon, until I come and rescue him. He's spent some sleepless nap times due to his relentless urge to stand up) and eating any and every object he finds on the floor. Please don't call CPS, but today I had to fish TWO more thumb tacks out of his mouth. At the same time. Pray he survives this "explorer" stage. He is quite vocal. He has repeated a lot of words, but his three official, self-initiated words are "hola," "Lijah," and "acala" (which is chocala..."give me five" in Spanish). Oh, and as a side note, he now weighs a pound more than his sister!)

Nathan and I just celebrated our 7th year of marriage! We love each other dearly, and I still have to pinch myself that God blessed me with such a godly, humble, hard-working, servant of a husband.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Times They are a Changin'

Life had changed. Why? Lucas has changed. My once, snuggly, stationary, content little man has turned into a 26 pound freight train on the go! I'm not saying it's all changed for the bad... The dear chap has finally figured out that solid food is for eating, and there is MUCH more to life than mommy's milk. This discovery has led to two HUGE blessings. Lucas no longer blows out diapers, and (this is my favorite), he sleeps 12 hours at night.

With this new fetish for eating comes a definite downside. He eats everything. I think my other kids must have put things in their mouths, but man, it's my constant plea that God graciously keeps Lucas alive despite all of the odds and ends his siblings leave on the floor for him to encounter.

(These are items I fished out of Lucas's mouth in a 24 hour period)

In two short weeks, Lucas has gotten four teeth, began crawling, attempts to climb the stairs, eats three square meals a day, and is starting to prefer daddy. I'm beginning to realize how fun life is going to be with four "big" kids.

(Lucas now leaves out the front door at will. Our door is always open to provide a breeze as we don't have air conditioning)

(He's also now trying to climb the stairs... and these aren't soft wooden stairs covered with carpet.
Can you say marble?)

 (Lucas isn't making much effort to walk, but Elijah is trying to help motivate him. But, as you can tell, lugging 26 lbs of "dead" weight isn't easy!)

(Peek a Boo!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Kid's Just Gotta Have Fun...

It's been a bit rainy here, and since we don't have our car, and I can't easily walk the mile uphill to the park with four kids....

.... This happens:

(p.s... Eliana participated in the insanity, but since she was only in a diaper, I'm not going to post her groovy moves online :-)

Friday, July 15, 2011


While Eliana may be small, she has got BIG personality. She is energetic, athletic, fearless, outgoing, opinionated, and nurturing. 

Eliana loves to have fun.

She loves to be given big girl duties.

She is so full of life.

 Her smile brightens my day.

Her energy exhausts me :-)

She is very sensitive.

She is often intense.

And she LOVES her daddy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Vegetable Soup...

More family faces are sure to come, but since I had these pictures, I thought I'd share with you another delicious, easy, healthy veggie soup.

I started with raw pumpkin, red peppers, zucchini, garlic, and onion (what I happened to have in my fridge)

 And after cooking it till it was mushy in veggie broth, I pureed it and added salt and pepper before setting it to simmer.

What I'm not mentioning was the large dallop of cream cheese I threw in there :-)  This was called "healthy" vegetable soup, after all! This soup was equally as yummy and probably more warmly received than the green one last week. I usually give it to the kids in a mug with a straw, and they have it drank down before I can even sit down.

Before pureeing it, I pulled out some of the ultrasoft veggies to give to Lucas. He still won't eat off of a spoon, but he was quite delighted to try the red pepper and pumpkin.

As a side dish, I thought I'd cook the corn on the cob Nathan had found.

Is it normal for corn to have so few kernels? I felt like each ear had only half the kernels it should have had. But, Levi had fun helping me shuck, all the same.

And I discovered that already-eaten corn cobs make great teethers!

For desert, Lucas ate a lego. Lucas pretty much likes to eat everything.
We have entered the "danger zone."

So, to end, I issue you a challenge. I dare you to pull out your crock pot, throw in whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have. Cook them in broth (veggie or chicken), and then puree them. Part two of the challenge is to take pictures and tell me about it :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Family with Many Faces

As I take pictures, I realize how expressive my kids are. I'm sure everyone is expressive, but I love how you can see their hearts, emotions, and thoughts written on their faces.

Just for fun, here are some of the many faces I see on Levi.
Levi tends to be moody.

Little things make him go inside of himself.

But, thankfully, if you talk with him...

He comes back around.

And returns to his joyful self.

Levi is my artist. I think his moodiness and this art-propensity go hand in hand. He loves to build with legos, and he could color all day long. Those are all of his pictures in the background minus the dog in the grass.

I love this little face.

Levi has one of the most expressive noses I know. He can contort it more than the average person.

Tomorrow, I'll post some of the many faces of Eliana.