April 30, 2010

The Chahls Rivah

The Charles River has played a large role in our life while here in Cambridge. We will miss it. Fortunately we're going to a city with three rivers, so we don't have to go through withdraw! Last Sunday we headed up the river a little to stroll along the bank. I love the Charles River Reservation. And I like these pictures so I wanted to share them.

April 29, 2010

So You Think YOU Can Dance?!

Check out these moves:

If You Are A Mom

then you know you can use a little encouragement now and then.

This year I've been getting to know Sally and Clay Clarkson through their books and website. Their ministry is called Whole Heart, and while I came across their stuff in my homeschooling research, I've been impressed by their desire to minister to the whole family, particularly parents. Rather than put their efforts into designing homeschool curricula, they've labored to produce books, conferences, and events to spur moms (and dads) on in the faith, and in passing it on to their kids.

Whether you homeschool or not, you need to get your hands on Sally's books! She doesn't offer a 12-step plan, but she does encourage moms to take their job seriously, to seek God for guidance, to create a vision for their kids and family. I can recommend The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood. And I look forward to reading Seasons of a Mother's Heart and others in the coming months. She's having a 15% off sale leading up to Mother's Day; now's the time to get these books!

A word of warning: you need to go into reading these books extending yourself a lot of grace. Sally has thought a lot about being a mom, raising her family, and scriptures that apply. And her kids were not all toddlers at the time of writing. You may find some of her stories intimidating, thinking, "I could never be like her! She seems to have it all figured out!" But the point is not to become a mom like Sally; she doesn't write for that reason. The point is to be encouraged to think about family, faith, child-rearing, and, above all, seek the Lord in your labors as a mom (or anything you do, really!)

This mom thing can wear you down! But God's given you the task of raising your kids, and you're just the mom they need. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 As I said in yesterday's post, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! And take advantage of Sally's insights if you need a little hope that it's all worth it or some ideas on how to think Biblically about mommy-ing beyond the day-to-day routine.

April 28, 2010

A Compliment for You, Tired Mommy!

Elizabeth and I read a bunch of books tonight. Into the 4th one I started falling asleep between pages...sometimes sentences. I am really tired.

As she went to get a final book from the shelf. I mentioned how tired I was feeling.

She said, "That's because you're a really great mommy."

Of course I was very touched, but also curious, so I asked something like, "What do you mean?"

She matter-of-factly replied, "Well, if you're a really great mommy, you're always really tired."

In that moment I felt so utterly loved and like all of the exhaustion is really worth it!

To all you tired moms out there, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!

April 26, 2010

It May Have Been School Vacation Week

It sure was vacation week!

After a week off, here was the state of Elizabeth's desk at the beginning of this fine Monday morning:


looking down from above

Her mother may or may not be responsible for these crazy piles of books and papers and toys and gift bags and stickers and markers and more. I suppose we'll never know.

April 25, 2010

Family Fotos & Foreign Fame

I decided to copy my friend Linee and have Colin take some pictures of our family in front of the dome - a good keepsake from our time here. The weather yesterday was gorgeous and I needed a family photo for an application I was completing, so we took advantage and got some pictures.

It's common for tour groups to stop by the dome and get pictures. While we were getting set up, a large Chinese group came and the kids got mobbed to have their picture taken. It was hilarious. One dude even picked Brian up! Elizabeth ate it up and posed like she was a model. Our kids will be famous in some region of China. (For the record, I'm not saying they're Chinese because they looked Asian; they had a large group picture at one point and held up the flag of China. Can't get much clearer than that, huh?)

April 24, 2010

Do I Have to Constantly Defend Myself?: a homeschooling question

Were people supportive of you homeschooling your daughter or did you have to feel like you were constantly defending your decision?

A friend of mine asked this question and I wanted to post an answer here, because it's a common one for homeschoolers.

You may be aware that homeschooling is not the norm. As a result, people will have strong opinions about your decision to homeschool. These differences of opinion (from family and complete strangers!) begin the day your child is born, but since education is so important, concerns about homeschooling are often greater than whether or not you give your kid a pacifier or whether you feed on demand or on a schedule.

The best, brief answer you can give people is this, "This is the best decision for our family right now." I read this in one of Linda Dobson's books, I think, and have found it to be an excellent response. It's non-judgmental and straight-forward. But even armed with that response, I strongly encourage you to have concrete reasons why you're homeschooling. Then be prepared to give a simple, non-judgmental answer when people (or you children!) ask to know more about your choice. It's also very helpful to have those base-line convictions to fall back on during a bad day or bad week! For example, we began homeschooling because I enjoyed being involved in helping and watching Elizabeth learn and because Kindergarten was full day, and I didn't want to have E spend her best hours and so many of them away from home at such a young age. Now I've fallen in love with homeschooling, so we'll continue for additional reasons, but I don't need to go into all of that here.

One thing that's been driven home to me this year is that for every person that you please with your decisions, you're likely displeasing another. This realization helped me to calm down about worrying about what other people think, particularly about homeschooling, and just make the decision to do it. And not in a "stick-it-to-the-man" kind of way, but rather in a "stick-to-my-personal-convictions" manner. I've spent so much of my life trying to please everyone. It's freeing to realize that you can't!

Personally, I have not yet encountered too much opposition to homeschooling, other than the age-old question, "What about their socialization?" (I can address that in another post.) I live in Massachusetts, and up here it seems like whatever you do is cool, as long as you're passionate about it, but don't force it on anyone else. :) Our families have also been supportive, even if they do think we're crazy. (Love to you all!) I can imagine difficult situations, particularly trying to convince your parents that you're neither destroying their grandkids' lives nor judging that they sent you to school. In those relationships, I would say you need to extend a lot of loving-kindness. Have your reasons for homeschooling, and share them. If there's a good book that's influenced you to homeschool, lend it to them so they can get an idea of why you're excited about it. And pray through it all that you would grow in grace as you navigate the relationship. You may never convince them that homeschooling is a good alternative to pubic or private school, but at least they'll know where you're coming from and that you're making an informed decision.

We've only been homeschooling for eight months. I am not an authority, but I hope this is helpful!
More seasoned homeschoolers, would you like to add anything? Please do so in the comments.

April 23, 2010

The Thesis Command Center

Last summer, after trying for a long time to find a good place on campus to work, Colin decided to build an office in the corner of our bedroom. We call it his Thesis Command Center. It's super cool and makes me look forward to projects he could do on a future home.

This is the view as you walk into our room;
the wall behind the dresser is the back wall
of the command center.

The other wall and the door.

Graduate student @ work.

A view from the top:
He's smiling because he's almost done!

April 21, 2010

What is the Present Value?

Our pastor likes to ask men in their ordination exams this question: What is the present value of the blood of Jesus in your life?

Here's my answer this week.

I have spent the last week being short with my kids: barking commands at them and getting easily frustrated with them. Yes, there's an element of PMS, but it doesn't excuse my sin. I was feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of moving, getting dates set, not getting as much time with Colin, and so on. You've all had busy times in your lives and (more than likely) my female readers can relate to how hormones can heighten the intensity of said situations.

But guilt was mounting, when I would let myself think about it. I found myself looking for an escape, rather than face and confess it. You know, sometimes I feel like such a fool, constantly apologizing to my kids for my harsh words and actions. Anger rears it's ugly head quickly when things aren't going my way! Yet despite my embarrassment, I cling to the hope that as we talk they're learning that we never outgrow our need for Jesus's blood, the forgiveness of sin. And that we can rely on God to transform us as we walk with Him, because He loves us very much.

The present value of the blood of Jesus in my life is very, very high! I cannot live without it. Without it I have nowhere to turn but my own deeds, and my deeds are evil - even my attempts at good are tainted with sin. But God is in the business of redemption, transformation, and hope. This morning, I was reminded in a friend's status update on Facebook: we are God's workmanship (poema) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (Thanks, Jodi!)

The blood of Jesus reminds me of the depth of God's love. In the last couple of months, I've asked God a few times that He would help me to better understand that He loves me. It's happening! Sermons I'm hearing, books I'm reading, and Scripture on which I'm meditating are melting my hard heart to receive and rest in God's love. From that place of security and peace, knowing that Jesus blood has made our relationship right, I can freely pursue obedience without fear, because I want to love my Father back.

I'll leave you with the lyrics to a song by Andrew Peterson, All You'll Ever Need. (Get your hands on his album 'Resurrection Letters' if you can.) This song ministered to my spirit last night as I swept my kitchen floor and cried tears of joy and thankfulness. I'd like to call it a "weep and sweep." Very therapeutic.
The blood of Jesus, it is like the widow’s oil: it’s enough to pay the price to set you free. It can fill up every jar and every heart that ever beat. When it’s all you have it’s all you’ll ever need.

The blood of Jesus, it is like the leper’s river, running humble with a power you cannot see. Seven times go under, let the water wash you clean. Only go down to the Jordan and believe. Only go down in the Jordan and believe.

And I need it, I need it. The closer that I grow, the more I come to know how much I need it.

The blood of Jesus it is like Elijah’s fire, falling on the altar of your faith. All the wisdom of the world could never conjure up a spark, but no power of Hell could ever quench this flame. No power of Hell could ever touch this flame.

And I need it, I need it. The closer that I grow, the more I come to know how much I need the blood of Jesus.

The blood of Jesus, it is like the widow’s oil: when it’s all you have it’s all you’ll ever need.
It is all you’ll ever need.

What is the present value of the blood of Jesus in your life today?

April 19, 2010

Togetherness Revisited

In October, I made this post with lots of photos and video of the kids together. Brian was 16 months old and Elizabeth, 5 years and 4 months. Now they're each a little over a month shy of 2 and 6 years old. Here are a couple of shots from last week.

Do you remember these painting books?
You just paint with water and the color appears.
Just right for toddlers!

One of Brian's regular words is "hat";
he liked this game.
I believe the shoes were his idea.

April 17, 2010

Mama's Little Helper

Brian's personality is emerging more and more. He's a helper and he loves music! Enjoy these videos.

After that he put away 4 or 5 more yogurt
and cottage cheese containers,
all by himself.

April 15, 2010

Real Life with a Real God

If you're new to the blog, here's the story on my life right now:

My husband, Colin, is a PhD candidate in Cambridge, MA, (where we have lived for the last 7.5 years.) He will defend and hand in his thesis before May 21. Graduation is June 4. We need to move out by June 12; we are headed to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is where our families live. Colin will be working where we attended undergrad and we will live with his parents for at least a short while.

We have two children, ages 5 and 1 (will be 6 and 2 when we move). The younger prefers getting up by 5:30. every. single. day. We started homeschooling this year; a decision we're very happy with, but that demands certain attention from me, as you might imagine. And Colin is in full-blown writing mode. We see him for meals, but he's had to devote most of his time to writing. Meanwhile, I've begun to think about packing, throwing away, organizing, etc., and about the people I want to see and things I want to do before we go.

In the midst of all of this there is so much to be thankful for:
  • Colin's going to graduate; this is a beautiful testimony to God's tender care for him and our family. (Contact me if you want the whole story.)
  • We get to go be near family.
  • Colin's worked at home, so we do see him more than if he stayed on campus. (Thanks, dear, I'm really thankful for this.)
  • I'm sad to leave - this has been a sometimes trying, but WONDERFUL chapter of our lives.
  • Many friends and family have offered to help us with the move and childcare to prepare.
  • We can look back and know God was with us; we can look at today and know He is with us; and we can look forward and know He will be with us.
But folks, there are times - like this morning - when I find it very hard to be thankful. I want to wallow, complain, get people to extend me sympathy and tell me what a champion I am, and so on, and so on. Real focused on my belly button, if you know what I mean.

Seriously, Brian?! 4:45?!?! Doesn't that give me the right to be angry?

Well, once I got Elmo on for Brian, the coffee poured for me, and sat down with my Bible and notebook, I knew I had to give it up. I had to ask God to forgive me. I had to say thank you for so many things. And I emerge from some quiet time with a new perspective. I'm still tired, but not angry. There's still a lot to do, but I know I'm not alone.

I was thinking about how I long for some specific thing to fulfill me. It goes like this. "If I only had, like, 3 hours to myself - no kids, no interruptions - that would really make a difference." And yes, it likely would. for a time. But I know I'd be ready for another 3 hours pretty soon! Or "If I were only able to sleep until 6 every day." That would be nice; I might feel more rested. But, how soon would I be longing for 7?

Can you relate to this?

So this morning the Spirit brought to mind the Psalm that starts As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (I didn't know the reference, so I did a little concordance surfing to find that it's Psalm 42.) Verse 8 says this:

By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me -
a prayer to the God of my life.

Here's what that means to me today. God has me right where He wants me to be, and He's present in every single moment of it, day and night. He is my closest companion as I support my husband, teach, train, & play with my children, plan for and begin packing, keep up on daily housework, etc, etc. This is what my life looks like right now. It is full, but with the Lord it is beautiful, not burdensome. I will be tired, but need not be weary. He is the God of my LIFE. The whole thing.

How are you today? Did you wake up in a tizzy like me? Do you feel your need for the Lord? Will you rest in His arms and be comforted by His constant and abiding presence? There's no better place to begin your day. I guarantee it!


April 12, 2010

And It's Begun

Today is April 12.

We move out June 12.

Two more months. Two things that happened today:
  1. I was filling out a form for an event in August. I put Pittsburgh, PA as my city, state.
  2. I got the church nursery schedule for May and June. We are not on it.

April 10, 2010

Growing Up

This is my daughter, Elizabeth.
She is almost 6.

She's grown and changed a lot over the years,
as children do.

Almost 5

Almost 4

Almost 3

Almost 2

Almost 1

One day

April 9, 2010

A Little More Brian Fashion

Over-sized ballet flats with long shorts and collared shirt.

Batman jammies with blue sneakers.

April 8, 2010

Jesus Knew!

God demonstrates his love for us in this,
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

It was just Easter. I didn't do anything specific to observe Lent. The time slipped by quickly, like any other 40 days. But God has His way of not letting His people sit idly by. A few things have been going on:
  1. Our pastors have been preaching through the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6.
  2. I've been reading/studying the early chapters of the book of John.
  3. My friend's sister died suddenly a couple of weeks ago.
  4. The Spirit has been gently reminding me to choose forgiveness over grudge holding.
  5. Resurrection eggs & reading the Holy Week and Easter stories with Elizabeth.
These things all came together to impress upon me the gravity of Good Friday and the glorious beauty of Easter.

I won't go into all of in here. But I would like to share what's jumped out at me from John. Throughout the first 6 chapters, Jesus begins his ministry and performs some miracles. They attract many and repel others. It's coming out that He's more than just a carpenter's son from Nazareth. There's certainly something different about Him. Everyone has an opinion. He's got a following.

What has stood out to me in this reading as more profound than the miracles, is what Jesus knew:
  • 2:24 - "He would not entrust himself to them because he knew all men."
  • chapter 4 - He knows the woman's life story, from the number of husbands she's had to her spiritual thirst
  • chapter 5 - He knows what the Jews are thinking
  • 6:15 - He knows that the people intend to come and make him king by force
  • 6:64 - "For Jesus had known from the beginning (!) which of them did not believe and who would betray him."
That last one really got me. Jesus knew from the beginning (from the beginning if time) that he was going to be betrayed and by Judas. YET HE LET JUDAS EAT WITH HIM, WALK WITH HIM, REST WITH HIM, AND SIT UNDER HIS TEACHING, JUST LIKE THE OTHER ELEVEN, FOR ALL THREE YEARS OF HIS EARTHY MINISTRY. Who does that?!

Jesus was/is something much more than a really nice guy with great philosophical principles. He came into the word, as Matthew 1:21 says, to save his people from their sin. And to do so, he had to walk, talk, eat, sleep, and breathe with the very people who would betray him, turn their backs on him, sin against him. I don't know that I have the proper words to convey how this is hitting my soul. But I will continue.

JESUS KNOWS ME! And not just the stuff that I like Him to know, but the dirty stuff: the idols I worship, the times I blatantly choose to disobey Him, the jealousy, anger, bitterness, malice, hatred, selfish ambition, etc, etc, etc.

That's Jesus. Jesus knew and Jesus knows.

He knows me; He knows you.

He walked this earth with those who treated Him so poorly, but needed Him so badly. With a depth of love I don't know if I'll ever comprehend, He was determined to rescue us, that we may be drawn back to Him, in right relationship, for all eternity. THAT is what Easter is all about.

Jesus knew. He knew all the dirt on all the people throughout all of history, even those of us in the future, and he walked the via dolorosa to save His people from their sin. There was no other way than the way of the cross. It was that bad.

Then, gloriously, early on that Sunday morning, the tomb was opened, death was undone! And we can have hope that God is making all things new, through His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit: God the three-in-one.

Perhaps today you wonder if God is angry with you. As my pastor has often quoted, "If you come to God, He will not be angry with you." Jesus drank the cup of His wrath, that through faith in Him we might have eternal life, eternal communion with God. Jesus knows exactly what's going on in our hearts and minds, and He's not afraid of our questions, fears, doubts, and anxieties. He will carry them; He will transform us. The Cross and the Resurrection give us the assurance. All He asks is that we trust Him.

There's no one else who loves us like Jesus, nor is there anyone who knows us like He does. Today will you repent and believe? You won't regret it; I sure don't.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!

April 6, 2010

Boston Public Garden

Yesterday afternoon we went over to the Boston Public Garden to take in some of the early spring sights. There really weren't too many things blooming and the swan boat pond was still drained, but it was nice to be out in the warm weather! For those of you who are local, the swan boat rides start up again April 17, so the pond should be filled in the next week or so. We'll be heading back for a ride sometime soon!

The ducks had on their Easter hats!

The drained pond

Chasing bubbles!

Waving to the ducks

Watching the ducks

Ysterday was also the Pirate's home opener. They put on a good show for their fans, winning 11-5. Let's go Bucs!

April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

The only shot I got of them dressed up. Thanks for the outfits, Grammy and Grampy!

Our brunch spread with many wonderful neighbors!

The girls in attendance. There were also three toddlers (Brian, Alistair, and Sara), but they don't sit still as long.