Saturday, July 28, 2012

Minivan Madness!

We are now the proud new members of the minivan club!  I never thought that would be quite so exciting...and yet it is.

It's all ours!
Isn't it a beauty?

Our minivan journey started long ago, pre-children, when we were staunchly opposed to the ownership of minivans.  We knew we'd someday need a bigger vehicle, but there abounded plentiful options in the much cooler category of SUVs--definitely the modern family choice.

The kids on the way to pick it up (in Ohio!)--they were so excited and did great on the trip!
Along came Baby, and our car began to feel slightly cramped, and we started looking at other options just for fun.  The Honda Odyssey appeared at the top of every "Top Family Vehicles" list we saw, both for safety and convenience, but we found it easy to overlook in favor of our other favorites (which tended to be second on the lists--not bad).

Along came Baby #2, and our car began to feel unbearably cramped, frustratingly claustrophobic.  We began to look more seriously at other options, but just couldn't fit it in the budget, and so a more spacious vehicle became a dear, though far-off, dream!

The longer we endured the frustrating cramped-ness of our beloved-but-small car, the more the idea of a minivan began to chip away at my hardened resolve.  I still preferred to look into SUVs...but as I discreetly checked out various models in parking lots and on the road, I started to wonder about the practicality, and if they would really give us the space we needed.

Interior views!  It's so spacious and well-laid-out!

Then one day, a local auto dealership lured us in with promises of great deals and free prizes!  We knew we couldn't buy at the time, but went anyway, just in case...And they showed us a minivan.  We touched it, we climbed inside, the kids ran up and down the center aisle, I moved freely about assisting with their needs...Center aisles; in-floor storage...That was it--I was sold.  The kids were even more sold.

For months, I chipped away at Owen to convince him that our needs required specifically a minivan, and an SUV just simply would not suffice.  Slowly but surely, we began thinking in that direction, and non-committaly perused the options driving alongside us on the roads.

Can you believe it has video system???  This is an AWESOME perk!
After months and months (or even years) of pondering, we concluded that we wanted a Honda Odyssey, though we hadn't yet test-driven one.  So, this past Monday, we finally went to test drive one so we'd know if we liked it as much as we thought, and would be ready to buy it when needed and when we found a good deal.  We immediately fell in love!

Then a crazy week ensued:
Monday night: scoured the internet for deals...and found the PERFECT one for a great deal!!!
Tuesday: made a purchase agreement (pending inspection) over the phone and arranged funds
Wednesday: drove to Akron, OH to check out this awesome van, and kept it overnight to test
Thursday: had the van inspected by a trusted mechanic, finalized purchase, and drove home!

Other than the fact that Jack wanted a dark blue minivan (fyi, I wanted white! and the video system made up for his disappointment in color), we all are simply overjoyed, amazed, and thankful for God's provision to us in this way. Now I can't help but look around when I'm driving, and when seeing other minivan drivers, project camaraderie-ly thoughts in their direction: "Yeah, I have a minivan too.  We're cool." 

This van is so much more to me than a car.  It represents years (literally) of prayers answered and hopes and dreams realized.  It is an unbelievable fulfillment of one aching need that seemed impossible, that seemed would require a miracle.  This van means to me God's awesome provision and power to work miracles, and has been incredibly faith-building.  See?  Even minivans can be sanctified for God's glory!

Yay for minivans! 

See you on the road!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Superheros vs. Stewarding Time

Yesterday, we were in a store and found a cute Batman cape shirt that Jack fell in love with...but it was incredibly overpriced, so we decided to try making our own.  Jack has actually been in a huge Captain America kick, so we changed it up a bit to suit our preferences. 

look at those muscles!

Earlier, I was feeling bad about wasting so much time on this project today...I had started to wonder why I let myself get sidetracked on these "unimportant" projects when I have so much "important" work to do...

When I showed Jack the finished project, his reaction was priceless: his face lit up with a huge, elated, can't-believe-it's-true, open-mouthed, teeth-baring grin, and after several seconds of such frozen grin, exclaimed with equal parts excitement and deep sincerity, "Thank you, Mommy!  Thank you, Mommy!...Thank you, Mommy!!"  And he ran to give me a gigantic, thankful hug. 

Count me reminded.   I think this was the most important thing I did all day. 

A sleepy Superhero, cape neatly hung for saving the world tomorrow...

Stay tuned for news of Captain America's cousin clan--Firestar, Batwoman, and the Camouflage Man!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You DO, Actually, Have a Choice!

There was a point in the day, today, when our 3-year-old son was resisting following instruction, and his daddy applied pressure...but instead of submitting to the pressure, our son responded a fair bit self-assuredly:

"Well, actually, I have a choice."

We were so caught off guard, and so surprised by this response, that all we really did was look at each other with shocked grins while trying to ward off the laughter threatening to erupt!

It's true--what could we say?  He does have a choice.  We just weren't prepared for him to realize that yet.

So, after the shock-and-awe faded a bit, I got to thinking how we should handle such a situation, or how to turn this sort of time into a teachable moment.   But really, Jack's words resonated deeply within myself...How often do I dislike something my Father is asking me to do, and resist, and declare proudly, "Well, actually, I have a choice."

Of course, we all want to be independent and not merely follow another's bidding.  We all want to think we possess unshakable wisdom.  We all want to exercise our free will--and rightly so, since we were created to do so!  It's just that, I usually come to regret acting on my own choices...and perhaps the truest form of wisdom is following one who is wiser?

 After some thought, I decided that perhaps the best thing to say to Jack after that sort of declaration is something like: "You're right--you do have a choice.  But there are consequences for your choices, so please choose wisely."  I felt a little sheepish, since I felt I was saying it more to myself than to him.  I do love it when God uses my little children to teach me big lessons!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ron from Home Depot

Today we were on a moderately long walk, in the suffocatingly humid heat, and on our way back home stopped by to do a couple errands.  It was mid-afternoon, way past nap times, and everyone was tired, hot, and cranky.  But, we had to stop for another can of Cool Cobalt paint for the kids' train table, which we are building for them.

So, we stopped "quickly" at Home Depot to grab another can of paint, and waited as patiently as we could for the color to get mixed and shaken (this sounds quick and easy, but, I assure you, it seemed to take FOREVER!), and then were off to the checkout lanes.  Halfway there, the children began to exhibit their overheated exhaustion through poor behavior choices, and I paused to deal with it.  And was rudely interrupted by CRRRAAASSSSHHHHHH!  My first reaction was severe irritation...not really sure why...until I realized what it was that had crashed: none other than our very own can of Cool Cobalt paint.

And it, being the cool blue color that it was, feigned dramatic by breaking open and spilling its contents all over the Home Depot floor.  It was a disaster.  I felt terrible...and embarrassed!  I sat there feeling ridiculous while other shoppers passed by with pitiful smirks, and debated whether to pull a "hit-and-run" or to admit to someone that I, indeed, was responsible.

I stayed.  Jack helped me flag down help, so that soon to our rescue came a very, incredibly kind older man, whom we now affectionately call "Ron from Home Depot."  Creative, I know.  (His name is Ron.)  If I were an employee there, I think I would have been more than a tiny bit peeved about the gigantic mess we'd just made, not to mention the inventory wasted, but this kind man masterfully assuaged our profuse apologies and bad feelings.  He said, "If this is the worst thing that happens today, I'm still having a good day!"  Then he proceeded to tell us about worse things he'd experienced happening--like a 2-year-old going potty on a display toilet--and how that still wasn't really that terrible, after all.  He tenderly took us over to get us another can of paint, and even treated us like he was sorry for making us wait so long all over again!  He went out of his way to take care of our needs and to make us feel important in the doing so.

The moral of the story:  It's profoundly amazing to be touched by such grace and kindness, especially in such an unexpected place.  Thank you, Ron from Home Depot, for showing us Christ today.  May you be blessed a hundred-fold!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Habit of Meeting Together

I'm still glowing from another encouraging meeting with my spiritual mentor, with whom I meet weekly.  I've always known and been taught that it was a good thing to have one, and tried a couple of times to pursue it, but never experienced the value of it working, as I imagine God intended.

Can I say, this practice of meeting together (and I don't mean church) is one of the most spiritually significant and growing experiences of my life.  I have almost never (with one exception) experienced God so deeply or so real or so effectively as the 2 times in my life that I have connected with a spiritual mentor whom God had ordained for me.  I say it that way because not all mentors are created equally, nor are all a good match for anyone.  A mentor, like a spouse, can change your life, and should be chosen prayerfully.

Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews felt compelled to exhort, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).

Let me share just a handful of the ways I've been encouraged by meeting with a mentor:
  • I'm learning how to translate spiritual truth into earthly reality.
  • I'm learning how to live by God's standard without succumbing to paralyzing legalism.  This is a great nemesis of the Church.
  • I'm recognizing my God-given strengths and how my insecurities/weaknesses are usually a spiritual attack on those strengths...and how to recognize and combat the attacks. 
  • I'm regularly seeing God through another human being, which is incredible and makes God more real to me (as opposed to a far-off Spirit whom we can never see or touch or understand)--God, a gracious, loving, non-condemning, encouraging, Father who convicts and guides in the most tender way; not the elitist, harsh, untouchable, strict taskmaster God that we too often mistakenly believe Him to be.
  • I'm benefiting from a fellow believer who's more mature and experienced, who can bring sense to my confusions and teach me in a practical way how to walk with God
  • I'm encouraged simply by having someone who always believes in me, who sees value and growth in what I see as failure, who reacts joyfully to my tiny baby steps as if they're giant leaps.
  • I'm learning, myself, to how to use encouragement rather than negativity or condemnation to exhort others in the way they should go.  I'm seriously astounded how my mentor can show me areas in my life where I need to change and grow, and simultaneously cause me to feel like I'm the most amazing and special person on the planet.  I mean, who can do that?  I've never met anyone before who can point out my flaws in a way that makes me feel like a million bucks!  That's how I want to I'm taking notes!
  • I'm learning what it means to train up my children in the way of the Lord...Even though this person is not my parent and I am not their child, the relationship of gleaning wisdom is in some ways similar to the parent-child relationship, and as the recipient I am starting to understand what that parental exhortation really means.  
  • I'm learning how to let go of my perfectionism in order to claim God's, and stepping out from under that giant thumb of oppression (i.e., perfectionism).
  • I'm learning how to be the wife God has called me to be, how to love and respect my husband...and it's revolutionizing our marriage (from my perspective, at least--perhaps we should get comment from the hubby??)
  • I'm learning to be at peace with myself, and not expect more than I should; to slow down the pace and grow one step at a time.
  • I'm beginning to really understand that God believes in me.  He's rooting for me to win, not sitting there with arms folded waiting for me to inevitably fail.  There's nothing I can do to drive myself away from His love.  That is life-changing. 

I encourage you:  You are amazing and deserve to be blessed--so go out and get a spiritual mentor!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perfect Light

There are times, post-rain, near sunset, when the sun casts a magical light and transforms everything in its path with unfathomable beauty. 

That particular shade of light, it's unreal...surreal...ethereal... It makes every common thing look grand and pure and heavenly.  It makes every common thing jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly beautiful.  Seriously. 

Tonight, I couldn't stop gazing at simple stalks of corn, they appeared so rapturous and transcendent, reflecting the beauty so perfectly that it seemed they became that beauty.  And the beauty of the perfect light perfected every good aspect those stalks possessed and more than covered over every insufficiency.  I was staring at stalks of corn, and I felt that my human body in all its capacities was not sufficient to fully process this unearthly beauty.

As I was soaking it all in, full of wonder, unable to fully comprehend what my eyes were seeing, it struck me--the same God who makes the sun cast this perfect light is the same God who has given us His Son, the most perfect light.  And isn't that what He does?  He takes ordinary, common, flawed people, shines His perfect light on them, and transforms them to become grand, pure, rapturous, transcendent, jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly beautiful.  The kind of beauty that mystifies and entrances all who gaze on it, because it is so...perfect. 

If you look closely, you can see a double rainbow!
Tonight, our amazing Creator and loving Father awed me with new understanding of Jesus' own words: "I am the Light of the world...Be perfect as I am perfect..." (John 8:12, Matt. 5:48).  Of course, it makes perfect sense: we become perfect not by toiling legalistically to do all the right spiritual things, but by letting He who is perfect reflect through us and perfect us.  I've known that in my mind, but now it seems so beautifully clear...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chasing Opportunity

An opportunity has recently presented itself...An opportunity which may very well turn out to be wildly beneficial to us.  But which may, also, not. 

I'm being vague on purpose.  With my sincerest apologies.

The opportunity to which I refer is something that seems, to our logical minds, in our current situation, to be necessary and wise; but we also clearly see how it could be convincingly argued to the contrary.  We are diligently praying for God's wisdom, and praying equally earnestly that we have the clarity of spirit to discern His wisdom, because what we're presented with would feel (i.e., not be in actuality, merely a temporary soothing) like one step closer to the fulfillment of the deep longings of our hearts (and sometimes that clouds our minds).

This is not something that we can control by our own decisions, however, and so we continue to wait on God and see what He will bring about.  Many impossible-seeming events must happen between our current state and this opportunity becoming reality.  Opportunities are exciting, but only God can bring them to fruition, and we wait expectantly to see how He will choose to provide.  Perhaps, at times, too expectantly!

We welcome and thank you in advance for your prayers on our behalf in this--albeit vague--matter!   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laughter Like Medicine

Okay, I know these kid posts are getting a little bit out of control, but it just happens to be all that's going on around here lately!

Today we were playing with my niece and nephew (aka, Jack and Safita's cousins), who are quite a bit older than our precious two.  The older ones were telling jokes, and I thought it was hilarious when Jack joined in and made up his own jokes:

Jack's original spin on the "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke:
Jack: "Mommy, why did the chicken cross the forest?" 
Me: "I don't know...Why?"
Jack: "Because it did!"

Jack's version of a Knock-Knock joke (warning: may be considered poor taste by some):
Jack: "Knock knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Jack: "Poop-poop."
Me: "Poop-poop who?"
Jack: "Poop-poop Jeremy!"
(We later learned from him that "Jeremy" is the name of germs, according to him, and we all know that germs live on poop!  Very clever.)

Aren't these great?  I love kid jokes.  They're so matter-of-fact, so unpretentious.  And the best part is how Jack roars in laughter at the genius of his own jokes (and in fact, so does his devoted sister). 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wisdom from Wee Ones

I love being a mommy, and I take very seriously my responsibility to teach and train my children.  But sometimes, it seems like they teach me more than I teach them!  It's a beautiful system, this family business.  Here is some of the wisdom my little ones have all figured out (and I hope they never lose it!):

* To love unreservedly, and forgive readily
   These sweet children love through thick and thin, and aren't afraid or ashamed to show their affection whenever it occurs to them.  They show no prejudice in their love, and see value in everyone.  They are quick to forgive, when an apology is sincere (or even just because). 

* To embrace life
   Oh, to be a kid again, and get caught up in the current of life, instead of the slough of "responsibility" that burdens us as adults...Children just seem to know how to embrace the joy of life, and to find joy in unexpected places, which is something we adults (wrongly) sacrifice under the pretense of being more--umm--responsible.

This is "emptying the water out" of Jack's boots, haha.

* To not be limited by fear
   I am amazed, constantly, at how unafraid my kids are!  Whether it's making new friends or asking kids we don't know to share a toy or jumping off a high precipice, they face new and challenging situations as if they're exhilarating opportunities. They especially seem to have no concept of fearing what other people think, which is HUGE!

Jack will jump off anything, even a 7-ft-high jungle gym!
Safita's favorite thing is jumping into water, and swimming in water over her head.  These guys are fearless!

* To play & be silly
   Sometimes, it's really good for the soul to just goof off and do nothing but paint your hair blue, make silly faces, and laugh about funny noises!  I'm convinced that silliness is more than just silliness--it's healing and rejuvenating!

* To approach problems as a game rather than an annoyance
   Whenever they're faced with a problem, their first reaction is to find a solution; and if the solution can be a game, all the better.

* To dance, whenever you hear music of any kind
   Songs on the radio, cell phone ringtones, advertising jingles...all deserve a peppy little jig!  It adds a sparkle of fun to sometimes otherwise dull moments.

* To treat everyone in the world like they are dear friends
   This is Safita's forte.  Wherever we are, and almost whatever her mood, she will wave and say hi, smile, and blow kisses to everyone we see.  She'll interact with strangers like they're a most beloved family member, and just make people feel special and loved.  She definitely leaves a trail of people swooning over her adorable friendliness!  She definitely convicts me in this regard, because I tend to just mind my own business and avoid people I don't know; but her friendliness seems to strike a (perhaps subconscious) longing in the people we meet from day to day--a longing to be in community, to treat all people like our neighbors, to be love to everyone we see...

Safita, showing deep affection for cousins we barely ever see (sadly)!

* To not judge people based on petty things, and to assume the best of people
   I think this is just true of kid nature--they haven't learned to judge yet.  They make observations about the people and things they see, but don't make value judgments about it.  I hope we can encourage them in that, and not teach them otherwise.

* To overlook differences--and even appreciate them!
   I love how the cousins on both sides love playing with each other, regardless of huge age gaps. They're all interested in different things and are at different stages in their lives, but somehow, they always find a common ground for appreciating each other and having fun together.  It's very sweet. In my own experience, too, when I've opened myself to learn from people different from me, I always learn valuable lessons and am deepened as a person.  It seems, God made us different for a reason, and maybe the point of community is to be around all different kinds of people (instead of a handful of people just like us) so that we can use our giftings to strengthen each other. 

* That it's okay to be discerning and picky about our real friends
   Jack has said before about friends,"I don't want to play with (so-and-so) because he/she is mean to me" or "I like (so-and-so) because he/she is nice to me."  I thought that was very mature of him, to have the discernment to know when someone else's personality/method of playing didn't encourage him, and the wisdom to know that it's okay to not be friends with people who don't encourage you. I sometimes feel obligated to try to be friends with everyone I meet...but not only is that impossible, but it's not beneficial for anyone.  Certain personalities blend better than others, and it's okay to be picky.  You do glean a lot from your friends, after all--better make sure they're worth gleaning from!  (And it goes without saying, also to make sure I'm the kind of friend who's encouraging to be around!)

* To be honest about feelings and emotions
   These little ones do not hide what they're feeling at all!  Sure, they need a little guidance and maturity to know how to better express what they're feeling, but I think it's very healthy and good that they express instead of bottling it up inside.  It's good to deal with issues when they happen instead of letting them get out of control.

* That God is involved and cares about the tiniest matters in our lives
   I love it when Jack involves Jesus in even the tiniest of situations throughout the day.  One of my favorites (which I may have shared previously), was when I told him a joke, and while laughing heartily he said, "Jesus in my heart is laughing!"  I love that image: God in our midst, laughing with us about a funny joke.  Jack is also very cognizant of and verbal about how Jesus will help us in various situations, like finding a lost toy or healing an owie, etc. 

I know these lists could be endless--I'd love to hear what your children teach you, too!