January 31, 2011

Good Friend, Good Ideas!

This is my lovely friend Carol:


She has great ideas.

I'd like to share two of them.

 1. Getting a bag of beans, pouring them into a pan, and letting your kids play in them with their small diggers and dump trucks.  It's like a mini-sandbox!  And if when beans end up on the floor, sweep them up, rinse them in a colander, dry, and resuse!


2. In a recent letter (Yes, a real letter; Carol and I are old fashioned, letter writing friends!) Carol suggested that we intentionally pray for one another each week.  Now on Tuesday at 9pm you'll find me in Pittsburgh and Carol in DC, somewhere in our homes, praying for one another.  We started last week, and I was overwhelmed by the blessing of knowing that AT THAT MOMENT my family and I were being lifted up in prayer.  So cool that I couldn't resist passing it along, especially if you have dear friends who live far away from you.

Thanks, Carol, for being you!

January 29, 2011

Family

My little nephew (my brother's third son) turned 1 this week.  We celebrated him a tonight.   He is so stinkin' cute I have to share some photos!



Nurturing Your Kids When They're in Their 30s

Thursday, my mom and dad joined us for dinner.  Prior to coming mom had to get some things at Sams.  She arrived with some very tasty bread to go with our soup, a painting I'd asked her to pick up for me from a thrift shop, and NEW FUZZY PJs!

Moms.

If you have a one that takes care of you, even though you're all grown up, you know how I felt about those new pajamas.  She didn't know it, but I really did need a new pair.  They are red.  And they are fuzzy.  And they just made me feel so filled up in side.  Can't wait to put them on again tonight!

We never outgrow our need for mom, do we?  We never get over needing to be cared for.

Your mom may be near, far, or gone.  But think about her or mom-figures in your life.  What comes to mind?


 
my mom and my kids
 Two suggestions, if you've been blessed by a good woman in your life:

 1. Send that person a little note of thanks today.  (Mom, this one's yours.
  Ha!)
  1.  2. Consider how YOU could do the same for another woman in your life - your   
  2.  own child, a young single woman, a young mother you know whose 
  3.  folks are far away, a widow, etc.

 I still call my mom "Mommy" - how about you?

January 28, 2011

The Ballet and the Beach

The kids played a little dress-up this week.  Can you tell Brian's sibling is female?


Getting Brian ready for some dancing!
Don't miss the video below. 

video

Yesterday we went to the beach!
We swam, played with a beach ball, had a lifeguard, and floated on rafts.
In the family room.
Made the winter seem a little more fun!

I find that I'm often too much of a fuddy-duddy (or distracted by household tasks) to really play with my kids, but when I do the day is a lot brighter; entering their world of imagination is super-duper fun!

How have your kids been snapping you out of it this winter?!  Sometimes it's just about being a little less selfish and a little more engaged, right?  So put on those snow pants or build a sheet tent, and watch your kids make the fun happen!  You'll find your creative juices start flowing, too.

If you don't have kids, you should do something silly today as well; no one's stopping you.  Have a great day!

January 27, 2011

Quiet Times for Kids

Coming up to the new year, I was starting to get panicky about whether or not I was doing enough for Elizabeth regarding her schooling.  It's pretty irrational - she's developing and learning just fine - but these thoughts are a constant companion for the homeschooling mom.  Can I get a second on that motion?!

I had to keep telling myself something I heard Sally Clarkson say this summer and that you can find in this book: (I paraphrase)  If we're focused on nurturing and training their hearts, the academics will follow.  I had to keep reminding myself (over and over, in my moments of fear) that my primary concern must be loving training and instruction - not so much the details of different subjects.

To that end, I want to share a little idea with you, that I know I did not come up with on my own!  (Thanks, Lord.)

Since Elizabeth is reading and we got her a Bible in the fall (the NIrV - New International readers Version - with simpler vocabulary for the early reader) I thought maybe it was time for her to have her own little quiet time with God before beginning each school day.


We bought a little quiet time journal at Walmart and for each day I make a page like this:



Right now I'm giving her verses to read that talk about different fruit of the Spirit. So, for a couple of weeks she was looking up verses about love, now we're on to joy, and we'll continue through self-control.  Without planning to teach her how to write the date, find Bible verses, and practice writing, she's doing those things in addition to more exposure to Scripture and learning to pray on her own - my original hopes for this time.

And she LOVES it.  She likes feeling grown up - doing something mom does - having her own journal and Bible.  What a blessing it is to see her excited about her time with God - not feeling it an obligation like I did for so many years.  (Fuel for a future post!)

Now it's time for true confessions!  Would you believe that God is using this time to teach me a little more about being patient?!  I know, the opportunities are endless when you're a parent.

Sometimes it takes her FOREVER to find the verses she's to read that day.

For.

Ever.

I want to butt in and find it for her, hurrying along her time so we can get to the next thing!  (Sometimes I do set a timer for her just to help her stay on task, because my girl can get distracted easily.)  But it is so good for me to learn to let the girl take her time, maintaining her excitement about searching the Bible and her desire to write her own little prayers in her journal.  Seriously, how can you hurry someone in their quiet time?!  It stings every time I get impatient about it - which feels like every single day.  We're both learning!

Just this morning, I was looking forward to her reading through her prayers when she's my age!  Some of them are really sweet.


As a side note:  I'm trying to use her quiet time to read Brian a Bible story from the Beginner's Bible, so we're all doing the same thing.

What are some things you do to get your kids or family in the Word?  Do you know of any good Bible study guides or devotionals for kids?  Mine are young, so it's new territory for me.  Suggest away!

January 26, 2011

Prayer

Just read a great chapter about the Lord's Prayer in John Stott's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.  I want to pass along a few of his throughts and a book recommendation.

Most of you know the Lord's Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed by Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Stott makes these points (among others):
  • We are praying for not only God's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, but also His name to be hallowed as it is in heaven.
  • The prayer addresses our three major needs and reminds us of our dependence on God to meet them, in all of His person.
    • physical - our daily bread (God the Father in creation and providence)
    • spiritual - forgiveness (God the Son - Jesus - dying for our sin)
    • moral - deliverance from the evil one (God the Spirit delivering us by His power)
  • Throughout, he also points out how the God we pray to will influence how we pray.  Hypocrites were praying to be heard by others and pagans repeated themselves hoping their god(s) would hear them. The Christian needn't do either; Stott closes the chapter with these words:
    • We need to remember that he loves his children with most tender affection, that he sees his children even in the secret place, that he knows his children and all their needs before they ask him, and that he acts on behalf of his children by his heavenly and kingly power. If we thus allow Scripture to fashion our image of God, if we recall his character and practise his presence, we shall never pray with hypocrisy but always with integrity, never mechanically but always thoughtfully, like the chilren of God that we are.  p. 152

If prayer is or has always been a struggle for you, check out this post - a recommendation of Paul E. Miller's book, A Praying Life.

Today, may you know that God is closer than your heart wants to believe, and loves you more than you can imagine - with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. (to borrow from the Jesus Storybook Bible)  Cry out to Him; He hears our prayers and He never sleeps - the Bible tells us so.

January 24, 2011

Dry Hands, Dry Hearts: God's Word in the Winter

My sandpapery knuckles and splitting cuticles painfully remind me that it's winter.  They also remind me that I need to regularly (read: 1,000 times a day) lotion up my hands if I want less pain and my skin to survive the season.

This got me to thinking about how a little daily maintenance can make a great long-term difference.  Here are some other life examples:
  • putting our clothes into the hamper and drawers each day, rather than having a HUGE job come laundry day;
  • picking up or putting away toys as you're done using them, rather than having to clean up everything at the end;
  • getting the dishes done after each meal, rather than waiting until the end of the day;
  • regular dental or medical check-ups, so we catch things earlier rather than later.

In all of these things, I often can't be bothered.  My excuses abound, then I have to endure the consequences of a little laziness here and a little sloth there.  It's painful - like dry, cracked hands that remind you that you could have done something to avoid it.


As I lathered up with lotion this morning, I got to thinking about how this applies to our spiritual lives.  Daily time in the Word and prayer with the Father is like balm for our souls.  Life may have us in the dead of winter: dry, dark, and cold.  But we can be filled with hope and joy: drinking form the fountain of life, letting God's light shine in, warming our self at the fires of His love.  The consequences of not doing this can leave our hearts looking a lot like dry hands or messy rooms.


This week, let's turn to God's Word when our cuticles crack and the temperatures outside make us groan with a longing for spring.  A little heart maintenance WILL go a long way! 

Cast your cares on the Lord,
and He will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

January 21, 2011

Home Sweet Home!

The hiatus has come to an end.  We are back and better than ever; seriously, we have great up-load speeds!  For now, I give you some photos.  Right now, I need to go iron a few things....

This is our new place!

A woman with a dishwasher she will NEVER take for granted.

A big renting-point for this house - ginormous kitchen!


A tribute to MA breweries

our bedroom

the kids' room
yes, that is shiny silver wallpaper with blue palm fronds...
that Elizabeth LOVES



 first dinner here as a family

Our new playground, right. under. the parkway.

this part is not under the parkway


Gratuitous pictures of my children, because I like them!


January 11, 2011

Transitioning - Stay Tuned!

We moved this past weekend.

We are awaiting our internet connection; Comcast should make it fast for me to upload pictures, which is good, because I have a lot to share.

For now, I'm enjoying my new kitchen (that has a dishwasher!), how much space we have (so much space!), and how close we are to Target (Oh, how I love you Target!)

More soon, after that day that I wait between 8am and 4pm for the tech to come and connect us to the network!

January 6, 2011

Be Yourself!

Friends, it's on my heart today to encourage you to be who God created you to be.

I spend much of my time wishing I could be better, nicer, more fun, more quiet, more whatever, like Miss So-and-So who excels at this-and-that thing that I don't do well.  Do you know what I mean?

Well, remember all of those verses about God's people being a body with many parts, each with its own duties and responsibilities?  Yes, those that you can find in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.  God tells us in His word that people are called to different things and intentionally knit together in different ways.  This has been on my mind as we've been assimilated into a new church (we haven't officially joined yet, that's coming!) and my identity from our previous church couldn't come with me.  It's made me ask myself, who has God created me to be, what gifts do I have to use in the church that I would be remiss to ignore or not share?  They need to be used and shared now in this branch of the body!

I don't have deep relationships with my new people yet; I can get self-conscious about acting on impulses, afraid of what people will think (um, yes, this is an on-going battle for me.)  But this is where God has us now, so why not jump right in?!

So here's my word of encouragement for you today.  If there's something that's been on your heart to do, do it!  The Holy Spirit gives us little impulses for God's glory.  Perhaps it's something you think others might view as silly or you're afraid will be received the wrong way.  But it could very well be that God's calling you to something very necessary - right now.

For me personally, it's been exercising the gift of encouragement and sending an email, card, letter, or care package when I feel like I should.  Sometimes I don't "get to it" and soon thereafter I often get a call or letter from that person and I'm humbly reminded that God puts people on our hearts on purpose!  I'm learning to get better at responding and doing, but I still fail regulary.  I'm also humbled by how God multiplies my  meager efforts when I do respond to his guidance.  He takes even my balking and mistakes and does great things.  Let me share a story.

We have some friends who are missionaries in Uganda.  I felt the urge, probably sometime in October, to get some of Sally Clarksons books to send to Amy, mother of three, in the middle of nowhere Uganda, so she too could be spurred on as a mom in her discipleship of her children.  I bought the books and they sat in a box in the livingroom for too long.  I wanted to send a treat for the kids, too, but couldn't think of what.

Lilli and Elizabeth at Chuck E Cheese's

Finally one day, as we walked the cereal aisle in the grocery store, I saw the pack of miniboxes and decided to add that to the package.  What kid doesn't love sugar cereal?  (There was even a box of plain cheerios for the baby!)  I got the cereal, put it next to the box of books ... and didn't send the box for another week or more.

I was starting to feel a little stupid, so I got the things together and mailed them off.  The postage was as much as the books ... I had the selfish thought that I would be really mad if that box never made it (I think too much about money.)  But it was sent, the money was spent, and I prayed the package would make it.

A short time later, probably less than a week, I learned the Johnsons would be in the Sates for a month for training and other catching-up.  The box was going one way, the Johnsons the other.  I figured they might get it sometime in February.

You can read the rest of the story (that begins immediately after their return to Bundibugyo from the States) here.

And so, the moral of the story is, listen and go for it!  Do what the Spirit prompts you to do - even your sin in the process (for me laziness, doubt, love of money, etc.) cannot stop God from accomplishing His purposes.  He can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.  I wanted the package to get there; He got it there  in the shortest amount of time, at just the right time, with just the right contents!

January 4, 2011

Our Christmas Letter



Dear Family and Friends,

We wish you all the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of new years ... late!

We spent half of the year here.

And the other half here.

Since we moved back to Pittsburgh we have been living with Colin's parents and the transition was amazingly smooth - though perhaps we should not be so amazed, given all of the prayers that were prayed in that direction.  The new year has us moving closer to the city, a little town called Greenfield, where we will live in our first house (rented) and have our first dishwasher.  Here's a quick update on what's going on in our lives.  If you read this blog regularly, this will likely be boring for you.  If you don't, then it will catch you up!


Colin spent the first half of the year writing and defending his thesis in Cambridge, MA and the second half continuing on the same project, second phase, here in Pittsburgh., PA  He's working on developing software for freshman/sophomore engineering and science courses, to help students better visualize and ultimately better comprehend complex concepts like thermodynamics.  It's a lovely blend of his scientific and programing knowledge with his desire to teach well - we give God the credit for bringing this to pass.

Heather keeps herself busy with the husband, the kids, and the home.  She's homeschooling Elizabeth and maintains this blog better than her house.  Hm....  I don't feel like I have anything interesting more to say.  You can putz around on here to learn more about what I do and what I think about.  Most of the time I feel super scattered.



Elizabeth is six (and a half, she'll remind you!), in first grade, and just learned to read.  She's energetic and bounces (literally) all over the place.  She loves being with her friends, writing letters to her friends who are now far away, and has hit an age where she also enjoys being alone sometimes.  If you let her, she will talk your ear off.

Brian is two (and a half, though he's not caught on yet to how important those halves are!) and is just plain funny.  He's got a great sense of humor and loves to make us laugh.  He likes to see how things work, play with trucks and cars, snuggle up for good books, and run around like a maniac.  He's hit an age where he knows his friends' names and looks forward to seeing them.  He also LOVES his grandfathers.

We pray that 2011 is full of blessing for you and yours.  We never know what life will bring our way, but we know God is faithful and cling to His promises.

Love,
Colin, Heather, Elizabeth, & Brian

January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's 2011!

New beginnings are often a time for reevaluation and reflection for us, aren't they?  We look back and we look forward; we rejoice and weep; we anticipate and we regret.  As I think about 2010 my heart is full; it was a wonderful year for us with Colin graduating and getting to return to Pittsburgh as major highlights.  The kids have been growing and developing in ever more delightful ways.  I can see how I've grown and changed, too.  My thankfulness runs deep.

Graduation day!

But as I look around our house, I also see how I've failed.  We moved six months ago and I have projects I never finished, that I certainly could have made time for, (e.g. Brian's baby book is pathetic!)  I see how my own laziness and lack of initiative has resulted in piles of papers, scattered supplies, and miscellaneous messes throughout our living space.

the average state of the dining room table when it's time to set it for dinner

With my personality, I'm tempted to give up and be swallowed up by the shame.  But this morning, God reminded me that His mercies are new every morning, and how grateful I am that a new year is beginning so I can consider how to better use my time and use it unto the Lord.

Last year, I chose Psalm 33:4 as a family "theme verse." For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.  I had it hung on the front of a cupboard in our kitchen in Cambridge, and on my nightstand here.  God worked His Word more into the fabric of my life and the life of our family throughout 2010.  He has also impressed upon us more that He is faithful in all He does.

Have you ever chosen a theme verse for a year or even a theme word, as they've been taking about on KLOVE this week?  Doing so can be a great anchor for both staying focused during the year and witnessing how God uses His Word specifically in your life.  It certainly made a difference to me this year, finding myself learning to turn to God's Word when I had questions or frustrations, rather than trying to simply work it out from my own limited knowledge and twisted up emotions.

love these berries in the midst of the winter drear


So, what's up for 2011?

Over the last week, I've been thinking about my lack of skill at separating work and rest and my tendency to rush to "play" before my work is really done.  This led me to dig into Scripure to find verses about work and rest.  I found that God gives us two kids of rest: plysical and soul.  If I seek both my physical and soul rest according to His guidance and directions, my life will function as He intended and be less dominated by confusion, doubt, and guilt.  Yours too!

My fresh, new journal now has these verses written on the first page:
Exodus 31:12-13, 16: I love the image here of celebrating the Sabbath - working hard the other days and really celebrating the day of rest God's given us!
Isaiah 30:15, 18: I long to be a woman with a quiet spirit who trusts wholeheartedly in her compassionate God.
Jeremiah 6:16: I hope to practice asking God the good way and finding rest as I walk in it this year!
Matthew 11:28-30: I want to learn from Jesus as I read about Him in the Bible and take on His yoke, receiving greater rest for my soul. 

Here's what I want to be pondering and/or practicing throughout 2011:

  1. Treating our Sundays as celebratory rest days - preparing food ahead, planning (or not!) fun activities for the afternoon, etc.
  2. Finding soul rest even when life is full and busy - working joyfully, not grumbling about upset plans, staying on top of tasks and doing so as working unto the Lord, etc.
  3. Looking more at Jesus and what He teaches us about who God is and how learning from Him can lead to a more soul-restful Heather.

What are you thinking about as you begin the new year?  Whatever it is, may God bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you, be very gracious to you, and give you peace!