Snow Fun and Glitter!

 I used to be a fun mom way back in the day. When the boys were little, being so close in age, I was constantly searching for and thinking up really fun activities. I get a pang of nostalgia when I think about those days, with my two little buddies going everywhere I went! And now they are so….so big!
Sniff.

I realized this year that I really dropped the ball where poor Eliana is concerned. She gets spoiled yes, but I don’t often do activities with her. She’s just my little companion. This winter I have been trying to do a few more crafty fun things with her because she really enjoys them! And before I blink three times, she’ll be in preschool. Double sniff!

 
On Tuesday afternoon, while the boys were wrestling in the living room, I grabbed some snow (of which we have plenty!) from outside and put in in a big container, handed Eliana her mittens and a few measuring cups and containers and just let her play! After a little bit, I added a few drops of blue food coloring and later some red (which made for a very strange gray-ish purple color!). She mixed and scooped and made some snow cookies!
 

We had actually just finished making real cookies together, hence the apron:) She was my faithful little chef helper and we whipped up a batch of snickerdoodles. Yum!

There is another craft I have had my eye on for a few weeks. It’s called many things: a Time-Out Bottle, Mind Bottle, Calming Bottle, etc. I finally got the remaining ingredients today and we tried it out! Apparently this was all the rage a couple years ago on Pinterest. I am obviously behind the times:)

I got the tall bottles (with the orange drink) from the dollar store. The label was so easy to rip off but it left one long strip of stickiness on both. I tried lemons, vinegar and scrubbing and they only seemed to get stickier. I don’t make a habit of having Goo Gone or whatever it is lying around so I did a little research and then I found Homemade Goo Remover. Seriously, try this stuff!! I whipped up a quick batch and in 4 minutes, the stickiness was completely gone! Wow.

So after I solved our sticky dilemma, Eliana and I made our first Calming Bottle with her color choice of purple:) Here it is settled at the bottom.

We added purple, pink and silver glitter!

Curious little face in the backround:)

And here it is shaken up! The point of the bottles is to shake them up and hand them to your child (or a stressed adult:) and they watch the glitter fall as they calm down. You can use them in time-out or just at a time where you need them to calm down and refocus.

She loves the colors!

Unfortunately, the purple on was too thick (I added too much glue) and it was taking to long to settle so she lost interest. I made another batch in a jar and it was much better!

This afternoon, Eliana and Baby Anna went to a “baseball game.” I thought they were going to watch but apparently Baby Anna was going to play! She is a very talented baby.

Aw, look, a little Cubs fan. That should make a Grandma-Great happy!

“NO MORE PICTURES!” she was growling at me! But who can resist a messy-haired, purple glasses wearing, adorable three year old?

Here are the two final products of today’s experiment! Notice the blue bottle is shorter and leans to the right? Ah yes, that would be where I made a very silly, thoughtless mistake and poured WAY too hot of water into the bottle and shrunk it. Hmm.

And all shaken! They may not be as perfect as all the Pinterest-y perfect people but they are still pretty!

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Maybe some of this new-found resolve to do crafts with Eliana or quilt again or busy myself is just distraction. Okay, let’s be honest, it is. It is helping me to stay busy and keep my mind off of things. It’s my down-time moments that are the hardest for me. The quiet moments without little interrupting voices. The idle times when my brain has time to think. While washing dishes or taking a shower or driving somewhere.

They really aren’t my favorite moments right now because although I spend much of them praying, I also spend most of them with a heavy sadness that I can’t shake. I am really battling my loss of hope right now. I heard a song on the radio today by a peppy Christian artist and she was jamming away about how God was like lotion on her face (or something weird like that) and that she would be totally fine no matter what came her way, etc.

And here I am in a place, that I am ashamed and heartbroken to admit, where I thought she must not have experienced heartbreak herself. Because I don’t feel okay right now. I don’t feel filled up, even though I am crying out to be filled right now. I feel a little empty and it’s very hard to think of hoping again. I’m in one of those places where you wonder, even while you’re trying not to wonder, why things seem to work out so easily for some people? And why it’s so hard for other people to catch a break sometimes. And you start to wonder if God will ever bless you or fulfill the desires of your heart.

Or even more, were we crazy to have come and done all of this and can God really ever use it? Or does He want to?

My Grandma, in all of her love and wisdom, always reminds me never to envy other people who seem to have a picture perfect life. Because you never know what’s really going on behind closed doors or what they may have to face in the future.

It’s true and honestly 99% of the time I don’t envy anyone else and truly feel very very happy for all of our friends and family who seem to be having prayers answered left and right and are in a good place right now. It’s that crappy 1% of the time where I feel hurt and disappointed and I wonder if maybe God forgot about us or maybe we didn’t do something right.

Yes, I know my theology is crap in all of this. Theology doesn’t really play a huge part when your emotions are taking over. And my emotions are kind of a roller coaster at the moment!

The good thing is, this disappointment, coupled with some days off of school, have pushed me to just enjoy time with my kids and stay busy and focused on them. I have had some really good times with them in the past week. Playing Legos (and cleaning them up!), making cookies, watching movies, talking and just being together. I’m often too harried and tired and dreading the bewitching dinner hour to really focus on the boys and enjoy them. Or too busy fitting in all my errands on Tuesdays with Eliana; my one day with just her and a car.

It has felt really good to listen to their stories, hang around them and be lazy and busy all together and to pour myself into them right now. I am so incredibly thankful for my sweet-hearted Samuel, who tells me in great detail about every book he reads (he is really into Hardy Boys right now!) and who loves to joke with us and do his magic tricks on us.

And for my fuzzy-haired Zakkai with his “owl-brow” as we call it; for his love in figuring out how things work and his earnest little face when he wants to tell us all about his new discoveries and for his newfound love for reading “Magic Tree House” books and how proud he is!

And for Eliana, with her happy, dimpled smile that shows us how very securely loved she is. For her little mommy-ness that cares so gently (with a few exceptions!) for her babies, esp Baby Anna, and her love of all things pink and purple; her need to be hugged and held, and how she loves to be a helper.

And for my Ben; who I now know I can face anything in life with. We’ve had some really, really dark days together these past 8 years and some truly amazing moments and he is, without a doubt, my best friend in the whole world.

I think of these things and I can see God in them, even when I am not sure what He’s doing with the rest of our life. It’s all about perspective.

Fresh Air and Waffle Treats!

Today we finally got to break free from our house-prison and get some fresh air again! Eliana and I ran some errands this morning and it was really nice to be out and about, even if she was having a bit of an emotional morning. I’m guessing her out-of-normal characteristic behavior at the store was partially due to the fact that her daddy was at home and she wanted to be with him! She started crying as soon as we were about to drive away saying, “My daddy will be sad wifout us!”

Little Miss was all smiles again as soon as she got back home and into Daddy’s arms. Not that she would let him know it, of course! She plays hard to get with her Daddy and is very coy. No one is fooled though because she knows that she’s had him wrapped around her itty bitty fingers since day 1!

I mentioned the other day that I had a great waffle recipe to share and I do! A few years ago, my dear friend (do 30-somethings say ‘dear’??) sent me a recipe for a Coconut Lime Cake which is just SO good and a flavor combination I had never tried before. I was bored the other day, after a couple days of being house-bound and started browsing pinterest. I like pinterest but pretty much only look on it when I am suffering from total boredom!

Anyways, I couldn’t even think of anything to browse and suddenly remembered I had a bag of limes in the refrigerator. Total impulse buy. I started searching recipes using limes and came across this recipe for Coconut Lime Waffles. Not only did the picture make them look drool-worthy but it was that same amazing combination from the cake!

I had just enough limes and shredded coconut left to make these on Sunday night for our usual breakfast for dinner. They were SO good! Very different from the usual same-old same-old waffle. The lime flavor is light and refreshing and the toasted coconut on top just put it over the top!

I would highly recommend you try it for a delicious treat!

Happy Wednesday.

Stuck At Home!

The kiddos and I have spent a LOT of time together at home over the past few days! Ben had to work over the weekend to catch up on hours lost at work from our trip to OH and his trip to Scotland last week. Then school was called off today (and tomorrow) because of the severe cold and Ben took the car to work so we were sequestered at home again!

We pretty much had a pajama day all day today! Why get dressed when we aren’t going to see anybody or go anywhere?? The boys helped Eliana put together a nice birthday party for Baby Anna this morning:)

They set up her tea set with birthday cake and tea and fought over all the details because a certain three year old is very particular!

Zakkai had the craziest hair today. Last night when I got him up to use the bathroom, I thought his hair smelled extra good and he had quite the bedhead. I realized when I was standing behind him that he forgot to wash the soap out of his hair after his bath! He had some great hair today:)

Samuel ran away when he saw me sneak up with the camera but I caught him once:)

Eliana making Baby Anna turn the pages of her “birthday present.” Baby Anna gets the royal treatment, I tell you!

We also had waffles for breakfast (I will absolutely post the recipe because they were very good!), played Legos together, watched “Peter Pan” read books and more. I really need to come up with something fun for our day tomorrow….Any ideas?

I finally pulled out the old quilt last night and started working on it again while we were watching a movie. I do hope to finish it someday!

It may filled with imperfections but I do think it’s pretty!

Lighten up!

 Since I haven’t posted pictures recently and my posts have been heavy and sorrowful, I just wanted to add a few pictures to lighten things up. I hope and pray my writing isn’t coming across as complaining or thankless, as the encouragement of family and friends is more than welcome during these days. Faith and walking through life is really tough sometimes and it isn’t often openly talked about, as if it’s a sin to struggle. Unfortunately, I am struggling right now; we both are.

Just wanted to make it clear that I am thankful for my community and am also thankful for this outlet to work through my emotions!

Samuel has lately gotten into fixing his hair and spending long periods of time in the bathroom, wetting the comb and fixing his hair into a small mohawk. He begged me to buy him hairgel and thoroughly enjoyed gel-ing his hair today:) Um, I thought I had a few more years before the teens hit?/

We forged a path to the library this afternoon, after a very full morning of cleaning. The fresh air and exercise was good for us!

Distraction is really good at this point. I did most of the pulling to the library and they begged to pull and push home, with our wagon full of Sister and books. Fine with me!

Stinkiness.

Sometimes life stinks. And there’s really no way around it and no words to take that feeling away. Does that make me faithless? Maybe. I really hope not. But I am being honest and have never been able to mask my emotions or feelings well. I’ve never been able to decide if that is a blessing or a curse!

Two days after the great Scottish Disappointment, we received another blow. A “kick a man while he’s down” kind of blow. And we’re reeling a bit, trying to pull ourselves together. Trying to muster up enough hope to believe all of encouraging “just wait and trust and hope” words that people are offering to us out of love.

But honestly, it’s really hard sometimes, after multiple knock-downs to get back up again. We are getting back up. We’re limping a little, patching up our bumps and bruises and blindly pushing forward but it’s really hard some days. We are in a place where pretty much every door has been closed and we have no idea where to go or what to do. It would be the perfect time for a miracle.

Some might have the first impulse to tell us to buck up and get over this and let it go. We will let this go and move on but we also need a period to grieve and quite frankly, we really do need a miracle to happen for our future.

This week on facebook, I saw that a girl I knew growing up, who is somewhat older than me, is battling cancer. Most of the comments were very encouraging, filled with prayers and hope for a victory. But there was one woman, who is a family member, who responded with, “Maybe this wasn’t in your plan but it was definitely in God’s plan for you this year! Prayers!”

Really?? Is that comforting? Because I don’t think that this world was supposed to be full of brokenness and cancer and constant disappointment and discouragement. Maybe I took a bit of offense because of what we are going through this week. I just think if more people were honest about their struggles (or if others let them be honest) they would probably not grin and bear it and say, “Oh well! Cancer smancer! Must’ve been God’s will for me! Yea!” I think most people probably say, “Why God? Why is this good for me? This hurts. This stinks. I’m having trouble trusting You right now. Please help me to lean on You in this time.” Right?

The analogy that keeps coming to mind to describe what we are going through is a couple hoping for a baby. They try and try to have a baby and every month there is disappointment. Or maybe they just lost a baby. Would you say to them, “Oh, well, that was just God’s will. There was probably something wrong with the baby and it is better off now. At least you know you can have children! Or God must have a different plan for you!”

Some people do say that and probably mean it in all ignorant sincerity and love. But I have heard mothers and fathers respond with, “But we wanted that baby. We are grieving the loss of that child that we longed to hold in our arms. That child was the one that we were already dreaming about and planning for.” And maybe after many losses or many disappointments, they start to wonder if it will ever happen. If their dream will ever be fulfilled.

That’s exactly what this feels like. No, we didn’t lose a child. We lost a dream. We lost a hope. For the fourth time. And it was probably the one we hoped for the most.

I feel like I am in a battle every 5 minutes. First, the disappointment of what is not to be hits me or the discouragement of the unknown and I feel really down and all sorts of other emotions and then I push myself, with a sigh, to think of things to be thankful for. Because there always is something to be thankful for.

I’m going to write them out because maybe if they are in front of me, it will help me to think of more.

1. I am (mostly) thankful that Ben got the interview at St Andrews because it really pushed him back into work mode and showed him that he isn’t supposed to walk away from academia yet. (What that looks like, we have no idea!) And it was a really good experience for him.

2. Ben has a job for a couple more months. Every day is a day to be thankful for and I will try really hard to focus on that and not on the negative part.

3. We were surrounded by love and prayers of SO many people last weekend/early this week. There are a lot of people who do want good things for us and who sometimes have faith for our future when we cannot.

4. Our children are healthy and strong. I pray the uncertainty of our life won’t affect them too much and that through this we can set an example of faith and trust. Or at least continuously and honestly seeking God and asking for more faith and the ability to trust.

5. I am forever thankful to some very personal answers to prayer in the past year, that are more important than a job. When I focus on those, it puts things into better perspective.

It really helps me to write out and process through all that we are feeling. As I always say, there is a lot of good in our life. People that we are incredibly blessed to know and love. Our own little family.  We’re just going through one of those times that we know we will probably look back on a few years from now and say “Oh, that’s why we went through that (or maybe we’ll never know.)” Or we will be able to see how it all worked out. Maybe we’ll get our miracle or at least some answers to prayer.

I know my posts this week carry heaviness and heaviness is something most of us like to avoid, including me! We are working through this, pushing forward and continuing to ask for prayers for peace, for us to trust and for God to open up something for us. Soon. Sometimes faith isn’t all roses and plastic grins on our faces. Sometimes it looks like putting one foot in front of the other and making the choice to believe, even in the moments you don’t feel it. Sometimes it’s hanging on because there is no other option and you know deep down, under the hurt, that God will not let you go and His new mercies are waiting around the corner. New every morning.

And to end on a lighter note and to show that we are continuing with normal life while we deal with this: while Ben is making up hours at work today from his trip this week, I am spending the day at home with my munchkins, putting them to work! So far we have tackled the basement, which was in quite an embarrassing state, and now they are attempting to clean their room. Eliana just walks around with a bag putting random things in it to “put away.” She gets sidetracked with putting Baby Anna to bed or serenading us with screeches on an old recorder she found, or getting dressed in the most mismatched craziest, three year old outfits you ever saw.

Last night, Ben worked late and after dinner, the kiddos and I all snuggled in our bed with jammies on and the space heater running to fight off the cold and we read books for half an hour; one story for each of them:)

It’s these moments that bring us peace and comfort. We know deep down, whatever hourly struggles we have, that we will be okay. God hasn’t left us in the darkness and forgotten about us. He is God and He is love and mercy and peace.

Hope Deferred…

Scotland, the land of sheep, green hills, lilting burrs and rainy skies, although a place that I long to visit is sadly, not to be our home for the next 3 years.

It’s very hard when you have something like this in front of you, not to engage your heart; to hope for it,  to dream about it, plan for it a little. I knew that it would hurt if they said no and I tried to hold my heart in check but unfortunately, I have one of those hearts that refuses to listen and insists on never-ending hope and dreaming, darn it.

I am taking it much harder than Ben. Can I just say that I am so incredibly proud of my husband? He took a big risk to work for this and fly all the way across the ocean and into a culture and system that he doesn’t know and he rocked it. Despite the disappointment that he feels, he has immediately found many things to be thankful for. The honor of such an invitation, the fact that he was short-listed and in the top 4, the fact that an extremely well-known scholar in the New Testament was there to listen to his lecture, the kind treatment that he received from everyone he met there, making it a far better experience than his interview last year. The fact that this is one more interview under his belt, increasing his knowledge and experience in that area. And more.

My Ben has handled this with such grace and dignity and I am SO very proud of him. He has grown so much in this past year. He has stared down the abyss of emptiness and confusion and unbelief and has come out on the other side, stronger, gentler, humbler and more sure than ever of Jesus, his reason for living and continuing to hope.

I wish that I could say I was as mature about this! I hope that I will be after I have processed this for a couple more days. I am pretty sad and emotional about it. Despite people’s concerns about all of the details of the job or how I would handle being farther away from family or maybe their expectations about where we should or should not be, we were ready to go. It was really exciting to dream about. It would’ve been an absolutely amazing experience, even with the difficulties!

Trust me, we have faced difficulties; more than most people know. We are not the same people that we were when we started our first adventure in leaving home 10 1/2 years ago. We have been strengthened, broken, rebuilt, challenged and stretched in ways we never ever imagined, let alone asked for!

But that’s the thing about being open to what God has for you. It may not look like or be like you expected. In fact, chances are, it won’t! But it will be good. In the end, despite all of the pain or growth you experience, it will be good. If you allow God to work in you and are open to the growth.

I couldn’t have gone on an adventure overseas 10 years ago. I couldn’t have left my home, my family, my comfort zone. But then I took the big baby step of moving out of state. And then a little further a couple of years later. And as difficult as some of these years have been, I am thankful for them. I like the fact that I am stronger. I like the fact that I can say yes to an adventure. Okay….most adventures! There are a few things I can name off that I would not like to do! I like the fact that I know I can rely on God and draw closer to my husband and be okay, even without my family or my comfort zone nearby.

I have wanted to go visit Scotland since a very young age. As a matter of fact, probably a week after Ben got the email with the invitation, I remembered a Scottish magazine that I had bought years ago that I kept because I loved it so. The pictures, the dreams of such an incredibly beautiful place and different way of life. A place that captures my heart. And believe it or not, the main focus of the magazine was this really cool place called St. Andrews. Go figure.

I created a folder on my computer this past month named, simply, “Scotland.” I am not sure yet whether to delete it immediately or to save it to look through the websites and pictures when the pain isn’t quite as sharp and the disappointment has faded a bit.

I will be okay. I am not crushed. I am strong. We are strong. God is faithful and continues to give us hope, even when we think it’s all depleted or we think we can’t do this again. I will continue to pray for the next adventure or open door to come (soon) and to hope for it.

But I think it’s okay for me to be sad right now and take a little bit of time to work through that.  I think it’s okay not to need to hear all the reasons why this specific thing didn’t work out or why it wasn’t good for us and to just want to have a listening ear and compassionate hearts reaching out. There is a verse that explains this well, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And maybe someday soon, we’ll get to experience the 2nd part of that verse. I want to believe that. I will choose to believe it.

Over and over again.

Peace That Surpasses..

I am sure people will be tired of hearing about Scotland when this is all said and done but at the moment, this is a big deal to us and quite an adventure!

A couple weeks before Christmas, Ben, who has been on an amazing spiritual growth journey (for lack of a better word) this year, came home and said to me, “I prayed today and told God I am ready to be put back in the game. I am ready for an adventure!”

Immediately, I said, “What?! No, why did you pray that?! You have to be careful about praying about stuff like that!” It’s like praying for patience or more faith. Next thing you know you are dealing with the most horrendous person or situation that tries your patience like never before or you are facing some terrible unknown or fear and your faith is being tested. Be very, very careful when uttering prayers like those!

Nevertheless, his prayer was uttered, with extreme sincerity (and a bit of fear and trembling on my part) and FOUR days later, Ben got the email inviting him to Scotland for an interview, something we had deemed impossible. We have no idea of the outcome today. It could be no and we will be back to square one, praying for God to open some door for us. It could be yes and we’ll be on quite a wild ride and adventure!

Whatever the outcome, whatever the answer, we know that God is asking us to trust Him. “Will you follow Me?” He asks. It could be following Him in your current job. It could be selling off all your possessions and moving to Zimbabwe. It could be mustering up some courage and moving into a new path where you feel Him leading. It could be Scotland. It could be staying where you are and allowing Him to refine you a little more and be a little more patient while you wait.

We would like to enter a season of hope and dreaming and new adventures; we feel ready for it (am I going to eat those words??) but most of all we need to be in a place of trusting and hoping in Jesus, above all else. And resting in peace in Him. That is what we are praying for.

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Ben made it safely to Scotland, by the way! I received an email from him around 10 this morning, that he was completely exhausted but safely at his hotel! We had a chance to all Skype together this afternoon before he went to sleep and he told us that the town of St Andrews is really beautiful and nice! He walked down on the beach by the North Sea and saw a castle there! (jealousy!)
 
He said that he asked someone on the bus which stop was for St Andrews and she didn’t understand him! She told him to go ask the bus driver but later, when she figured out what he was saying, apologized and told him she didn’t understand him. Apparently, our flat American accent is hard to understand! haha. The Scottish people, with their lovely burr’s, say “St Andrews” almost like one word with rolling r’s and a charming accent. Ben said that everyone has been very kind to him so far, living  up to the reputation the Scottish people have of amazing hospitality and warmth!
 
He also corrected me in my time change. He is SIX hours ahead of us here in Chicago and FIVE hours ahead of OH (and anyone else on OH time:). I am not sure why I got confused! All this time change stuff is for the birds.
 
Several of us are setting our clocks and waking up early to cover him in prayer as he presents and later has his interview. You don’t need to wake up at 5 or 6 but if you could say a prayer before you sleep tonight, we would be so thankful!
 
Whether this is a 3 day adventure or a 3 year adventure, we are so thankful for the support and love from our friends and family!