Monday, June 25, 2012

We've Got the Fever, Baby!

Our kids have been eagerly desiring another addition to our family for some months now, and our baby itch has definitely exploded into baby fever (yes, parents included!) since the recent birth of our new little niece/cousin, Baby Ava. 

Jack has names picked out for a boy and a girl, but definitely wants the next baby to be a girl, because girls are cute and sweet.  What a sweet compliment to his sister!  Safita has been doing lots of practicing on her baby doll, cradling her and kissing her and dressing her; and she also practices burping almost anyone whose back she can reach.  

Jack is a great protector and teacher, kind and patient and gentle.  A couple of times in social settings, I've seen him interact with younger children, and he's so gentle and uses that sweet higher-pitched voice that we adults often use with young ones.  He is smitten with babies, and loves to get right down and play with them.  Safita is a sweet little mother and LOVES any baby, anywhere...she will just sit and stare and poke for as long as you'll let her.  Her mothering instincts overflow even to Jack and me (I exclude Daddy only because he's usually at work when this is going on) throughout the day, when she'll randomly come and stroke our hair, or rub our backs, or kiss us on the shoulder or head.

One of my favorite recent responses from Jack regarding a baby happened several days ago:  I had eaten a hearty meal at dinner, and was joking to Owen how my belly looked like I was 4 months pregnant (I'm not).  Jack immediately ran in from the other room with wild excitement in his eyes, flung himself into a hug around my waist, and looked up with wide eyes and a huge can't-contain-my-excitement grin, exclaiming, "You're four months pregnant?!  Are you?!  Are you pregnant???!!!"  Oh, melt my heart!  I can't tell you how deeply it encourages my heart that both of my children eagerly long for more siblings to love!  They are sweet, sweet souls, these two.  And THEY ignite an even greater excitement within me, to see what another precious soul from "our" womb will be like. 

So, I just have to share this adorable video--I know it's a little long--of the kids (mostly Jack) with their new baby cousin.  It's so sweet, a memory I'll always treasure, and am so thankful it was caught on video!  


Friday, June 15, 2012

Morning Mercy

For the past two weeks I've gotten back into a running routine, by combining my morning "prayer walk" with running...making it a prayer run!  I go first thing in the morning, just because it's the best time to get away by myself, and I am NOT a morning person.  Mornings find me groggy, lethargic, hardly able to crawl out of bed...So, a morning run?  On my list of impossible things to not try.

But, due to our current schedules, it was then or never, and as I've shared our renewed dedication to put priorities straight, it had to happen.  And you know what?  It turns out, every morning now is an amazing reminder that God gives me the strength to do what I think is impossible.  If I simply take the step of faith to tumble myself out of bed, groggily tie my shoes, and trip out the door--immediately, He rejuvenates me and gives me the energy and stamina I need.  And not only to survive the exercise, but to really, truly enjoy it!  (Today, I was sad to stop!--which I'm not sure has EVER happened before, not even during my peak periods of fitness.)  In the past, when I've been out of the running habit and tried to start up again, the first month or so was painful...and I was expecting the same now.  But from my very first run, and every time since, it's simply been enjoyable.

And the blessing lasts longer than the 30 minutes I'm changes my whole day.  I am energized, optimistic, hopeful, joyful, and way more productive on the mornings I run.  Not to mention super-encouraged about how great God's power is!  I mean, if He can help me love a morning run, what CAN'T He do???  :)

I just want to share this to publicly praise the Lord for His goodness to bless and multiply our smallest efforts.  He turns our pebbles into brilliant diamonds.  His mercy is great!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Update on the Little Blessings

Our beautiful children are at such fun, special ages, so I've been wanting to let you all in on their preciousness!  Here's an update on my JackJack (almost 3 1/2) and Fia (almost 1 1/2):

  • Calls himself "JackJack" when he refers to himself in the third person.  I think it's adorable that he's self-adopted a nickname!  (Some people have called him that on occasion, but we never do, and it's certainly not a regular thing.)
  • His die-hard favorite color is dark blue.  Someday, we are going to end up with a dark blue house, a dark blue minivan, and a host of other dark blue things!
  • Takes great pride in being funny, and is always telling us "jokes." 
  • His favorite scent of soap is cucumber melon.  He fell in love with it at Grandma's house.  Yesterday we bought some at the store for him, and he pridefully carried it all the way to the car.  

  • Favorite foods: apples; vanilla yogurt (which he calls "mavilla," and staunchly refuses any attempts to correct the pronunciation); peanut butter; apple juice; oatmeal; pepperoni pizze...he dislikes eggs and mushrooms.  
  • He loves books and reading; he's started "reading" books to us recently, which is so great!
  • He loves to help me cook.
  • He's a sweet, affectionate, empathetic, intuitive little soul.  He seems so in tune with the moods and needs of those around him; nothing slips by him.  Sometimes, I am shocked by his level of understanding, which is way beyond his years.  
  • He has the maturity to know that it's okay to not play with someone if they aren't nice to you; it's okay to choose your friends.  
  • His current favorite Bible story is "Jesus Walks On the Water."  He asks for it nightly, for about 2 weeks running now.  He also wanted me to buy him some water shoes so he could "walk on top of the water, just like Jesus."  
  • He seems to be quite spiritually aware...He talks often about Jesus in his heart; whenever he gets hurt he declares, "Jesus will heal it!," or when he or anyone is healed of an owie he states matter-of-factly, "Oh, Jesus healed you!"  He is very moved by the truth that "Jesus is God," and picks up on it anytime he hears it, and says it often.  One of my favorite things I've heard him say is when, one time, I told him a joke, and he laughed and said (while still laughing), "That makes Jesus laugh in my heart!"  One time he also told me, when there was a dispute over which child was to sit in which car seat, "I was asking God which one was mine, and God told me this one" (the one he wanted, of course)--how do you argue with God?
  • He loves playing outside, especially with toy cars and trucks in the dirt, making roads for them and such.  He also loves riding his bike.
  • He is independent and fearless, always up for trying new things.  But also is a Mama's boy :). 
  • He's a very helpful shopping assistant.  He tells me very honestly if he likes or dislikes clothing I've picked out, or if I can't decide he will pick which one is better.  Yesterday, I asked him about something I was looking at, and he said thoughtfully, "Hmmm...I'm not sure about should try it on."  
  • He is very much all boy--loves scary monsters, aliens, robots, guns, superheros, trains, trucks...He also loves puzzles and building with legos.  He's very good at working with small pieces and being creative.  He's also good at figuring out how things work.
  • Loves to dance.  Loves to jump.  Loves to throw things. 
  • Loves babies!  He sweetly coos over his sweet new baby cousin, about how cute and little she is, and wants to hold her.  He very much wants us to have another baby, and tells me consistently that he wants another baby girl, because they're cute and sweet. 
  • Has been noticing and expressing curiosity over the differences between boys and girls.
  • Generally does not like trying to pray out loud, until recently when he's witnessed how we exclaim over little sister when she prays her adorable prayers, and now when we pray he'll pray along out loud, semi-repeating what we're saying.  
  • Is very excitable.  
  • He's incredibly smart.
  • Adores his sister, and is very sweet to her.
  • Hates wearing clothes.  Lately, you'd think we were torturing her every time we try to get her dressed!  We've also battled lately with getting her to keep her diaper on--she casts me a mischievous smile, and tugs the tabs to rip it off...
  • Has an affinity for sweaters.  She's obsessed with them.  If she's going to wear anything, it must be a zip-up hoodie sweater.  Even if it's 90 degrees outside.  And she insists on having her sleeves down.
  • If she has to wear clothes, she wants to pick them out, and is very expressive about what she does and does not like.  
  • Has recently decided that it's fun to yell at the top of her lungs, "MAMA! MAMA!" all day long, about anything and everything, regardless of who she's talking to.  She doesn't yell in an angry way, just a very loud way.
  • Loves to eat, always!  Favorite foods: crackers, grapes, and beyond that--almost everything!
  • Loves accessories like shoes and sunglasses and hats.  Definitely a little fashionista.  She's always saying "Eyes?" to ask for her sunglasses, and wears them proudly.  My favorite is when she puts them on herself and gets them upside down--too cute!  She likes to paint her nails.
  • She loves books and reading.
  • She loves the help me clean.
  • She continues to dearly love cars and trains, as her adored brother does, but also has a growing interest in dolls and feminine things.  She's started to combine the two, and I find her pushing her doll around in the dump truck. 
  • Wants to do everything Jack does, and copies so well.  I heard Jack complain today--I think for the first time--"Safita is copying me!"  That's what sibling do, my boy. 
  • Loves, loves, loves babies!  She's obsessed with her new baby cousin, and whenever we're out and see any random baby, she lights up with excitement and wants to touch and pat and poke the eyes (in a loving way! she's learning to be gentle).  Whenever we ask if she wants to have a baby brother or sister, she nods vigorously and seems delighted by the idea!
  • She's goofy and silly!  She is always making us laugh.

  • Is very sociable.  Whenever we go anywhere, she smiles and waves and blows kisses to everyone we see.  Sometimes it takes a while to go places, because everyone is her friend.  That contagious smile of hers sure does melt hearts in a hurry!
  • She loves to be outside, and loves to go places in the car.  
  • She's very agreeable, and very sweet, and very content; she's tough, and loves to roughhouse.  She's full of love and kisses.  But if she gets upset, it's not pretty!
  • She loves to watch movies, and has a growing attention span.
  • Her word list is exploding!  Every day she's saying more new things!  I'm guessing here, but she has perhaps 40-ish words she can say understandably (at least, understandable to her parents).  
  • She's very curious and interested in things; she always wants to learn new things and watch how I do things. 
  • At each meal, when we announce, "Time to pray!" she will fold her hands and say, "Thank you, Jesus" (which sounds more like, "date-doo jish")--adorable. 
  • She loves washing her hands and being clean.
  • She loves balls, and will ask Dada to watch "ball" on the TV--a little sports fan!
  • She's got dancing and singing in her blood!
  • She loves finding little nooks and crannies to sit in; and if we're sitting on the floor in butterfly position, she can't resist but to run over and plop her cute bottom into the crevice of folded legs.  What can I say, she takes after her Mama!   
  • Apparently knows all roads to Grandma's house, even the not-often-traveled ones--a very smart girl!
  • She thinks it's her undeniable job to sit on us when we're exercising (sit ups, push ups, etc)--she's a good strength trainer! 

  • Adores her brother.
I know these lists are long, but I still feel like I'm forgetting tons of things!  Anyway, it's a decent snapshot, at least!  I love watching these little miracles of humans grow, but sometimes I wish I could freeze time and just enjoy right now for longer than a moment!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Along the Road

I've grown weary of fretting over my own mediocrity (whether real or imagined), and with some timely encouragement and much prayer, have come up with a plan of action! The plan has already been implemented, and is already bearing much fruit!

So here it is, The Plan of Action:

1) To stop, and be still.

Stop kicking, screaming, and fighting against God.  He loves us, He desires what's best for us, and He has a reason for placing us in each circumstance, right here and right now.

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Ps. 46:10)

I all too often fall into the trap of thinking that to be a valuable and useful human being, I must be constantly doing something, being productive, helping everyone with everything...If anything in the world needs to get done, then I must do it, or the world will simultaneously fall to pieces and despise my laziness.  You get the point.  This mindset is for sure stressful, and perhaps also deceptively prideful?  

But it seems to be a theme throughout Scripture that that is not what God desires of us...and in fact is the opposite of what He desires of us.  I could list numerous Bible verses, but I'll leave you to do your own studies :).  It helps me to think in terms of my own children: They need my help, and I desire to give it to them--in fact, it brings me great joy to help them!  But it's so much easier and enjoyable to help them when they are still and let me help them; when they fight and resist--albeit playfully--I still want to help them, but just simply can't.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8)

Notice how none of God's requirements for us involve doing--but they all involve being...being people of character, regardless of what we do.

2) To train my heart to chase after God.

I recently was convicted of a muddled and confused mindset I've had...something that seems so right and good, but is deceptively selfish...which is that inspirational call to "Chase your dreams!  Dream big!  Reach for the stars!" etc...I'm not saying this goal is bad in and of itself.  I'm just saying that God convicted me of placing my dreams before Him, and reminded me that what I really need is to chase God, and let Him fill me with the dreams He has for me, and let Him fulfill those dreams.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matt. 6:33)
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  (Ps. 37:4)

The trouble for me in chasing my own dreams is that it simply makes me grumpy, frustrated, and self-centered.  I could write a list a mile long of all the dreams I have for myself, but no matter how hard I strive to attain them, they always remain just far enough out of reach to keep me perpetually disheartened.  And really, when I examine them, those dreams are all very earthly-focused and have no lasting value, and the efforts to attain them sacrifice the things that are lastingly important--like investing myself in my children, for instance.  I get grumpy because I can't do what I try so hard to do, I get frustrated because I think I should be able to do it, and I get self-centered because I think it's my right to enjoy the happiness of achieving my dreams and anyone or anything that gets in the way of that "right" suddenly owes me my entire life's happiness; it's a terrible, misplaced "martyr syndrome."   I must admit, it's very embarrassing to admit this struggle, but I do because I'm encouraged with what God is teaching me. 

3) To get my priorities straight!

Priorities are a struggle for me, because EVERYTHING seems to be critically important, and I get lost and overwhelmed in the great Sea of Responsibility.  And then, of course, I do nothing, and am worse off than before.

A respected spiritual mentor recently spoke to me about this issue, and gave me a very practical list of priorities that is so simple to remember:
  1. Love God.
  2. Love my spouse.
  3. Love my children.
Anything beyond this is extra, and great if I can handle it...But if I'm not loving God (and all that that entails), then I shouldn't do a single other thing until that relationship is put right.  Ditto with spouse and children. It's also a good reminder for me that my children do not supersede my husband, which is something I often forget because he seems so self-sufficient, and they so needy.  But we have experienced firsthand how everything and everyone suffers when these priorities get out of whack. 

Another truth that has revolutionized my current life: Any needs that come my way that fall outside of these 3 priorities--it's okay to say NO!  It's very hard for me to say no, and this unfortunate trait causes me often to feel overburdened.  It has helped me immensely to be reminded recently about such requests: "It's not a burden, it's a decision."  So, if I say no to you in the future, don't take offense--I'm just trying to keep my priorities straight!

4) Take action!

Yes, this part of the plan does seem to contradict Step 1, but it doesn't, really.   This is the part where resting in God meets being obedient to do the things He asks of me, which fall directly in line with that list of priorities.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled...  (1 Pet. 1:13)

My "action" list involves consistent time with God, regular dates with hubby, making sure I play with the kids each day in addition to caring for their needs, praying with Owen each night about the goals we should have for the next day, regularly getting to bed at a decent hour, and getting healthy with exercise and good nutrition.

The action plan, however, must be kept in strict check from perfectionism.  Perfectionism is definitely one of the biggest vices that tempts me to feel discouraged and give up.  I don't do all of this perfectly every day; honestly, it's good if I accomplish one or two of these things each day.  The truth is, I'm learning, that any step forward--no matter how big or small or consistent--is still a step forward, and should be applauded!  A perfect day is a good day, and a good day is one in which I tried.  The only perfection God requires of us is His own. 

So there it is.  These are just some things I'm learning along the road...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Butterfly Blessing

I know I've been MIA for a while...not just in blogland, but in many areas...I'm just taking some time to refocus and reorganize the important things in life.  God is definitely blessing the time, and there are good things to come!

This post isn't about anything deeply meaningful, just a small, ordinary blessing in an ordinary day:

Two days ago, we discovered a beautiful butterfly, badly hurt with torn wing and unable to move.  We took it home as our "pet butterfly"--the kids were very excited!  The poor little butterfly clung for its life to its stick while we examined it, oooh-ed over it, the kids waved it around...

Then we placed it on our flowering plant, its new home, and hoped it would survive.  I think we even prayed for it!

The next morning, the poor butterfly looked convincingly dead.  It was sad, but expected.  We just left it on the plant to deal with later.  But--later--Jack was playing out on the balcony and suddenly exclaimed, "Our butterfly is on the porch!"  Sure enough, it was ALIVE!  And WELL!  And it could FLY!!!  We took another round of pictures before the beauty fluttered back to his plant home, and we watched him drink his nectar dinner.

Today, our butterfly friend is gone.  But the joy of knowing we helped save his little life is so rewarding, we barely miss him.  This is just one of the little treasures God has sent our way lately, and we feel blessed.