Year’s End

Our fall was busy, and I don’t use that word lightly.  In fact, I hate the word “busy” and I try to avoid using it whenever possible.  I prefer to say I have a full life, but even that is starting to get a dark tone to it.  Constantly being busy shrivels my soul like no other, so I usually work hard to make time for pausing, reflecting, and being quiet.  It feels like swimming upstream sometimes, but I think I’m learning to feed my soul and spirit more than drive-thru fast food.  I discovered, though, that I am better at short bursts of very busy with white space in between than I am at constantly being sort of busy.  That’s kind of unrealistic, isn’t it?

God did set up creation to rotate through days and nights, seasons of harvest and seasons of rest.  I think that is the thing I am trying to learn, to find the rhythms that bring fruitfulness and peace.

This fall we had about 100 students join the already 150 full-time staff here, and that’s not counting all the kids.  We are at max capacity in this building.  God has been speaking to our leaders the past few years about building systems and roots that can hold more people, so it is a blessing to see the fulfillment of that word.  Hj and I led the business track of our DTS this quarter.  We had 5 students, who are in the lecture phase of their discipleship school.  Most of the time they were with the other 50 students in DTS, but we had several hours a week with them.  They got introduced to what business as mission (BAM) is, we took them on a number of field trips to local businesses, and they were instrumental in launching a fair trade store here on our campus.  They left this week for several months abroad, putting into practice all that they have learned the past three months here in Colorado.

Hj is helping several businesses in the 10/40 window establish an online presence through website and social media.  It’s a challenging job without ever having visited these businesses, but he is planning a trip next year to several countries where he can meet the business owners, as well as create and gather the content he needs.  Hj has committed to another year at the coffeehouse.  It has been a year of explosive growth at Kairos and with it, of course, growing pains and challenges.  We are sending 3 employees to do a discipleship training school with YWAM this year.  If I didn’t believe it before, this year has confirmed my belief that one of the most effective ways to invite people into the family of God is to hire them.  Especially here, our employees rub shoulders every day with young people who are passionate about following Jesus and they can’t help but be drawn into the story of what God is doing.

For almost a year, my friend and I have been going to the places in our city where prostitutes work because of a dream she had in which God told her to go every week and to take me along.  During the summer, we had 4 interns who went with us every week, but this fall it was just the two of us.  For security reasons there are a lot of things I can’t say on this platform, but God has led us one step at a time into a deep love and commitment to these women and introducing them to Jesus.  In January, we will officially launch this new ministry in YWAM and I will spend a few months doing nothing but research and prayer on many different fronts so that we can wage a strategic war on prostitution in our city.  We will seek to find out the biggest needs of the women we love, and working with law enforcement, politicians and spiritual leaders to understand what are the spiritual and legal strongholds we can work with or against.

During this time, Hj will be working in a three-month counseling course that is specifically focused on helping refugees.  He will be staffing the course, which means he will sit in on the classes, run the finances and mentor several of the students personally.  There has been great interest in this course, and they have accepted about 20 students so far.  We are excited, because they are coming from all parts of the world to learn how they can make a lasting impact in the global refugee crisis.

As you might know (or maybe you forgot), we live on the generous donations of our friends and family in order to be able to do missions.  We cannot be paid for any work we do with YWAM, but we are blessed with extremely generous families and friends who support us monthly and a church family who loves us and prays for us so faithfully.

There are so many wonderful places to invest your money this holiday season, but if God lays on your heart to give toward our mission, here is the link to give, for a tax-deductible receipt.

https://www.ywamcos.org/support?code=618

My Children

Disclaimer: these thoughts are several months old.

Last evening I met a girl at Natural Grocers.  She was a student here for a semester, but her ethnicity was Indian.  She was pretty and vegan and we talked about how we feel after we eat junk food.  Then she asked how old my kids are.  When I told her, she said, “Wow.  What do you do with them?  Like, can you talk to toddlers?”

I thought that was such an interesting question.  What do you do with toddlers?

She asked to see pictures of them on my phone, which made me happy.  I showed her these two from the day before.  Adam fell asleep on the way to our garden, so we put him on a blanket in the grass.  Ellie couldn’t stop kissing him and snuggling him.  She often tells me, “Mom, he is so adorable.”

What DO you do with toddlers?  I feel like I clean up after them a lot, and I take them places and train them.  I read to them many books a day, most days.  I tell them stories every night and I comfort them when they’ve pinched a tiny finger.

I’ve been saying it a lot lately: “I wish I could freeze time.”  My babies are 4 and 2 years old and I have always had such an affinity for toddlers that I just wish we could stay here forever.  I’m not so familiar with 6-year-olds and 10-year-olds so it feels a little more scary out there, but right now I really think it couldn’t get better.  About once a day I think how nice it will be when Adam doesn’t launch into such startling, unreasonable fits of frustration, but I don’t take those too seriously.

 

 

 

There are two questions I hear a lot.  “Are you planning to have more kids?” and “Do you think you will homeschool?”  I didn’t know I was expected to have answers to either of those questions at this stage, but hearing them often enough has pushed us to develop some reasonable-sounding + humorous answers.

This week Ellie had dance camp, so every morning we were out the door by 8:30.  I like it like that.  We usually go somewhere fairly early in the day, come home for lunch and then they sleep all afternoon.  Around 4:00 I start the laborious task of waking Ellie, who sleeps very, very deeply.  I feel like I need some creative strategies for waking her, because it is really one of my most challenging chores.  Yelling into her ear barely makes her flinch.

Miss Wendy was here for dinner a few nights ago, and we were sitting on the couch chatting when I noticed Ellie was missing.  Hj found her in the bathroom with a scissors and a bunch of hair in the trashcan.  She said she wanted to be like Miss Heather, my friend who has short hair.  She spent a long time in front of the mirror after that, brushing her hair and coming to grips with what she had done.

The next day Adam took all his clothes off, went to the corner of our building right by the road and relieved himself and then stepped in it.  Ironically, at the moment Adam was outside doing his business, I was on the phone with a friend telling her how frustrated I am that I can’t strike the balance between being a wife/mom and being a friend.  I feel like I’m either neglecting my friends or neglecting my family, but I can’t seem to find the spot in the middle.  I was on the phone catching up with a friend, but ignoring Adam for a full 50 seconds.  The irony, huh?

 

 

 

 

The other day at staff meeting here on the campus, we were to sit in circles and take turns talking about what we personally are doing to reach the unreached, since our campus is called to stay focused on reaching people in the 10/40 window.  I had to say my first mission is the unreached people in my home.  Maybe not technically unreached anymore, but my kids came to us completely ignorant of the Gospel.

It’s a topic for another day, but I have a lot of thoughts and questions about teaching our children about God.  I’ve always read Proverbs to them, but just recently introduced Bible stories like Joseph and Noah and Jonah.  Their reactions are priceless.  It has stirred in me such awe and wonder again for these incredible stories, and the Word of God in its mystery and depth.

This week Ellie’s dance camp has been very Christ-centered, and Ellie has loved it more than her birthday, I think.  She told me on the way home one day, “Mommy, when I was dancing so beautifully something happened which I thought was going to happen.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit came and danced with me.”  And I thought, I know that feeling.  I’m fumbling through this beautiful dance of motherhood, but I can say with humble confidence, “I know what’s going to happen– God in fullness will come!”

I have been reading the story of Jacob wrestling with God over and over lately.  In Sally Clarkson’s book “Different” there is a passage that talks about wrestling being a full contact sport; in other words, wrestling with God means being close to Him and engaging with Him.  I found so much comfort in those words because I am always wrestling with big questions and beliefs, and usually I feel silly for getting hung up on things that most Christians seem to accept easily, or I feel like a traitor for my doubts.  God has taken me back to Genesis 32 so many mornings in a row now, I’ve lost count.  There are tears on those pages because I cry every time I get to the part where Jacob names his place of wrestling “The Face of God.”  Even if I walk with a limp the rest of my life, I know that my wrestling and even my doubts have always led me back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.  I know I have met God in the long, dark nights and I have never been the same.

I hope and pray that I will be able to let the people I love wrestle through hard things and deep questions too.  I pray that I will sleep in peace, and when I wake up in the morning and see the limp of one who has wrestled with God in the night, I can say with joy, “Something happened which I thought was going to happen.”

SOBE

I’ve just been through a 6-week business intensive that we call the SOBE, School of Business and Entrepreneurship.  Technically I was staffing the course, but the truth is that I was there to learn.  We had 13 students from around the world, who each gave a 10-minute presentation of their business plan to a “shark tank” as their final exam.

We had phenomenal speakers every week; a collection of local businessmen who are embracing missions alongside us, as well as speakers from around the world who are very connected to the missional aspect of their businesses.  They were all brilliant, and gave generously of their time and expertise.

I heard so many things I don’t ever want to forget.  Here are a few of them.

As Christians, we usually divide our work and activities into sacred or secular.  We think a missionary or a pastor does sacred work, while a lawyer or business owner does secular work.  What if we are all called, as believers, to full-time ministry in our field?  It might be farming land, trading stocks or representing clients in a courtroom.  When God made Adam in the Garden of Eden, He “took the man and put him into the garden to cultivate it and to keep it.”  Genesis 2:15  We were created to work; what if this is our daily worship?  It reminded me of a quote I read a long time ago, when I was first introduced to the idea that God did not set up a secular/sacred divide in our work.  If money and trade and business were His idea, why would He not be right in the middle of it?

Peeling potatoes was more essential for Brother Lawrence’s spiritual growth than attending the evening prayer service because Brother Lawrence recognized that God was there in the kitchen as much as he was in the chapel.  -Andrew Spencer

I was especially delighted with the thought that when God made mankind on earth and gave us the mandate to cultivate it, He had hidden in the earth all the raw materials we need to create boats and cars and computers and fidget spinners.  Not only that, He hid in humans the intelligence to figure out how to make this stuff, trade it, ship it, and then how to manage it.  The business of creating products and services was all God’s brilliant idea to help us thrive on the earth.

I learned about what BAM (Business as Mission) is, and what it is not.  It is not business for missions, nor is it business to cover up the mission, as in restricted-access countries.  BAM refers to for-profit, sustainable businesses reflecting the kingdom of God in their mission and values, including these four bottom lines:

  1. Economic Profitability
  2. Social Impact
  3. Environmental Impact
  4. Spiritual Transformation

I believe Jesus is the answer to our soul’s greatest needs, but suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?  James 2

Lots of kind-hearted people have been touched by the plight of the poor in developing countries, and were moved to give from their abundance.  When I lived abroad, I was on the receiving end of containers from the USA, filled with clothes, shoes, food, all manner of donated items to help the poor.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this creates a cycle of dependency that hurts the local economy, besides the psychological and spiritual difficulties this dependence creates in a society.

I now see that BAM brings beautiful answers to the problems of the poverty cycle.  One of our teachers in the SOBE has started a business in a country where desperate poverty has caused many women and children to be sold into the sex industry.  His business supplies a living wage for men and women to provide for their families with dignity, in an environment that champions them as valuable children of God.

In the past, Hj and I worked with several ministries that were fighting sex trafficking and prostitution.  The biggest struggle these ministries faced was trying to find viable jobs for women who sincerely wanted to leave, but felt that prostitution was the only means by which they could afford a house and food for their families.  BAM addresses these needs, through spiritual discipleship as well as restoring hope and dignity through jobs.

This isn’t just for developing nations.  As a school, we took a field trip to Denver to visit several businesses practicing BAM.  We saw a coffee roasting company that employs homeless young people, as well as a connected coffee shop that does the same.  We visited a discount building supply store and cabinet shop that employs men and women transitioning out of homelessness or prison.  In traditional business, I’m sure these are the people you don’t employ, but that’s the beauty and irony of the upside-down kingdom Jesus taught.  I asked the owner how hard it is to employ people that the rest of the world tends to marginalize, and his answer really surprised me.  “It’s really not hard at all.  They’re motivated to work!”  We joined them in a lunchtime Bible study the day we were there. I found it so inspiring to see firsthand the way God is transforming individual lives and society through these businesses.

 

So, that’s [some of] what I learned in the SOBE.

“There is no understanding of any domain or dominion without understanding its design and purpose before sin and the fall. We were not made for sin. Sin happened, so God must and we must deal with it. But we do not have governance, science, education, family, business, beauty and the arts, communication because we are fallen from God’s ideal. We do not have nations and cultures because, after sin, there was no other way we could be ruled. We have all of these arenas of life because we are created in the image of God and they are all part of revealing Him. They are all ways in which we know, see and worship God. Our work, creating communities that reflect who God is, is our worship now and forever.”  Landa L. Cope

 

 

 

 

Podcasts

Alternate title: One Way to Keep your Brain from Shrinking as a SAHM

Last time I was here, I was talking about talking.  I just listened to This American Life, the podcast version of the radio show.  Last weekend’s episode is called “Say Anything.”  It’s all about talking, believe it or not.  I have been listening to This American Life for as long as I can remember and I probably will for a long time into the future, so if you’ve been wanting to judge me as a crazy left-wing liberal, now’s a good time.

In this episode of the podcast, I learned about a man and woman who go on the streets of New York City with a little sign that says, “talk to me.”  At first, people are skeptical because they think they’re being sold Avon or Plexus or something.  But there really is no agenda besides inviting people to talk about whatever is on their minds.  Do you ever feel like maybe you’re wearing this sign on your forehead?  I do.

I listened to a podcast awhile back about a woman who was obese most of her life, but she came to a point as an adult where she told her friends and family that she was fat. She called it, “coming out” as a fat person. She grew up hoping that if she didn’t mention it, maybe no one would notice that she was overweight.  It seems foolish to admit it, but that’s how I feel about leaving the Mennonites. Maybe if I don’t mention it, nobody will notice.

I’ve gotten used to being interesting to most people and I wonder how my children will handle boring small talk without being able to casually bring up the fact that they were raised Mennonite. That always unleashes a myriad of questions and observations. “So maybe you can explain to me the difference between Amish and Mennonites?”  That’s one I could answer in my sleep.  I learned some of what I know from a podcast episode called “Who Are The Amish?” from Stuff You Should Know. They’re the ones who taught me that Mennonites came first, then Amish.  From them, I also learned the three reasons the Amish split from the Mennonites.

When I’m cooking dinner, I let my kids watch Peppa Pig and I stick my earbuds into my ears and listen to podcasts while I’m busy in the kitchen.  (If you have been wanting to judge me as a lackadaisical mom, this is the perfect time.)  Lately I feel like I don’t have much time to sit down and read, so podcasts keep my brain on its proverbial toes.  I’d feel better about myself if I were listening to audiobooks but I can’t ever find good ones for free.

Sometimes I branch out and try new podcasts, but I always go back to the same handful that I’ve listened to for years.  However, this year I added a new one to my rotation as soon as it came out.  It’s called How I Built This, “a show about innovators, idealists and entrepreneurs and the stories behind the movements.”  I found the interview with the TOMs shoes guy especially interesting.  In the business school I’ve been staffing, we watched a documentary called Poverty Inc. (find it on Netflix!) that shows why a business model like TOMs is disruptive to markets in developing countries.  I was so happy to hear the TOMs guy say that he agreed with this criticism and they now manufacture over 40% of the shoes in the countries where they give them away.  I thought that was pretty humble of him to admit that they really needed to work on this aspect of their company.

The episode about Whole Foods didn’t have that same humble vibe, to be honest.

One podcast I tried recently is a lady who asks people personal questions, on topics we normally consider taboo (politics and money and such).  I forget what it’s called.  I found the concept intriguing but I was disappointed by the interview.  It just sounded like a normal American conversation to me, nothing too deep or uncomfortable.

I have never thought of myself as a creature of habit, but maybe I am; I do stick to my favorites.  It’s not a podcast, but I’ve listened to this so many hundreds of times over the years that I almost have it memorized.  So, if you would send me your favorite episode of your favorite podcast, I would love to listen to the things you are finding fascinating these days.

Talking

Maybe the reason I find social media awkward is because I picture everything.  When you send me an emoji, I picture you making that face.  😯 When I post something on Instagram, I actually picture myself standing on a platform behind a pulpit, saying the caption aloud to 150 people/followers.  (This includes an overhead projection of my photo.)  When I write a blog post and nobody comments, I feel like a whole bunch of people are silently sitting in a circle, staring at me after I just shared my heart with them.

I guess I should just keep talking.

Whenever I’m around people who are married, I always have this burning question on my mind: “How is your marriage going, for real?”  In 6 years of marriage, I might have been asked that question once.  It seems like your marriage relationship is a pretty big part of your life if you’re married, but I guess people want to honor and respect their partners by never talking about them.  I just love talking about marriage, but how do you casually ease into the subject?

I wonder if I should just keep talking.

A lot of people left our church recently.  We’ve been there for a year and a half so we feel pretty at home.  It’s an odd conversation to have when your friend says, “I wanted to tell you we started going to another church.”  What is the appropriate thing to say?  Do you offer sympathy?  Do you hide your surprise or display it?  Do you ask more questions or was that the end of the conversation?  I think I said something smooth and cool like, “Oh!  Ok.”

I bet I shouldn’t just keep talking.

The thing about old people is, they love to talk.  They have so many interesting stories to tell, including all the details and dates and people you don’t know.  I was trying to think of a new type of event we could do at our coffee shop, and I thought of “Olde-Tyme Story Thyme,” where we invite old people to talk for 2 hours straight about whatever they want.  I imagine the audience knitting, painting, and checking Facebook on their phones, all while listening to an elderly person talk about.  Maybe if the old people get all the stories out that are stuck in their head, they won’t hold me up in the check out line.

I should really stop talking.

I’ve had a blog post in my drafts for months.  It’s called, “De-plaining” and it’s all about how I used to be plain but I’m not anymore.  You would probably find it very interesting but I’m not sure how interesting I’m up for being at the moment.  Basically, I wrestle with the question of whether it’s possible to leave the Mennonites or not, which is another one of those questions burning on my mind, but I feel isn’t welcome in polite society.

I stopped talking, for now.

Updated update

VISITORS!
Hj’s sister came for a few weeks to visit us, all the way from Holland.  She brought her little daughter Feline along, as well as her friend named Rosalie.  They arrived on koningsdag, the day when the king’s birthday is celebrated in Holland, so we got to start their visit off with festivities!

They went on lots of adventures and the kids got to play together to their hearts’ content and maybe even beyond.  🙂  There are plenty of things to do around the Springs, and they even spent a weekend with our friend in Estes Park and explored Rocky Mountain National Park.

         

Feline’s birthday was a few days after they left, so we threw an early birthday party for her and Ellie, who will turn 4 next month.  It was so interesting to hear them communicate, in English and Dutch, sometimes figuring it out and sometimes getting frustrated when they were trying to pretend a story.

More recently, we had some of my family come visit!  It’s very hard for me to fathom, but those beautiful women flanking me are my nieces.  Last week we were having tea parties and swimming in the Pomeroon River and this week they are old enough to cut their own pancakes!  The rest of their family was here too; I just failed to get pictures.

This is the other day Andrew’s were visiting– we  took the train up Pike’s Peak and stopped halfway up where there was still enough snow to make a snowman.  Adam found that amusing, it seems.

SOBE!
While Martine was here, the SOBE (School of Business and Entrepreneurship) started.  I am staffing that school, which means I am in class every day with the students, sitting in on the lectures.  We have 13 students from around the world and it has been a delight to get to know them and their visions!

Most days, this is my view from the back of the classroom.  I’m learning so much from each of our knowledgable speakers, as well as from the students.  Meanwhile Hj is at home with the kids, being humble and loving and sacrificial and cheering for me every day!

ART!
I have organized a series of summer art classes for our campus.  It has proved to be a really profound experience and we have encountered Jesus in every lesson!  Yesterday after the art class, I found one of the older students in a corner weeping at what God was revealing to her through the process of creating.

WASHINGTON DC!
I spent Mother’s Day weekend in Washington DC with a number of friends and family.  These 3 beautiful women came with me all the way from Colorado Springs.

We were there to pray for God to move in the Supreme Court, that we would see an end to abortion in our country very soon.  It was a really powerful, beautiful time.  It is such an honor to stand as humans and pray for LIFE.

This year we circled the Supreme Court seven times, praying for seven different areas that relate to the abortion industry and fatherlessness.  My faith was renewed and the flickering flame of hope was fanned in my heart.

We spent an extra day sightseeing in DC, as the ladies traveling with me had never been there before.  I had seen the city plenty of times during the day, but seeing it at night was a whole new experience which I loved!  It felt even more grand and majestic than normal.

FAMILY!
At the end of every day, I am so grateful for the little family I get to call mine.  Before bedtime, we like to sit in a circle, hold hands and talk about the best parts of our day, as well as the sad parts.  Adam’s favorite part of the day is usually, “when Papa came back.”

Ellie  Adam  (typed by Ellie!)

I asked Ellie to write the captions for these photos.  She says, “These two pictures are for God and Jesus, one funny and one happy.  Did you know the devil hates pictures?”  Those are little undies on her head, which she discovered work great as a head covering.

          

Ellie spent the last 2 months in our preschool here on base, two mornings a week.  She loved it and will be going again in the fall.  Adam misses her a lot on those days, and sometimes I think how ironic that having two kids at home is so much easier than having one.

I’ve been reminded lately that 2-year-olds are about the most charming little creatures in the universe.  I feel like I have my own little show to watch every day as he discovers the world and language and his own opinions.

          

 

Yesterday

My friend Heather had a dream about human trafficking when we were in California together a few months ago.  Either in the dream or out of the dream (I do not know), God gave her my name and a mandate.

Our campus is focused on the 10/40 window and unreached people groups, but we also do some local outreach right here in our city.  At holidays, a group of YWAM ladies usually takes gifts to the local massage parlors for the women working there.  By massage parlors, I mean the sketchy ones where you come in and there’s a locked door and a camera to greet you.

God put it on Heather’s heart to start going to visit these ladies every week, and asked me to join her.  As we prayed and waited for God to direct us, He did.  Yesterday was our first day to go and we had four interns join us from the REACH team, the team from our campus focusing on local outreach.  I think REACH is an acronym or then I’m just yelling it.

I’m not sure if I have a comfort zone anymore, but if I do, I wasn’t anywhere near it yesterday.  I had never been to any of these places before; actually never did anything like this in the USA so I had no idea what to expect.  I had to remind myself of Ellie, who announced this week at the breakfast table that she has been talking to Jesus a lot and He has been talking to her.  He came to her in her bed, she said, and told her that she never has to worry because anytime she goes anywhere, He comes along.

We had a good time, prayed for a number of ladies, and told them we’ll be back next week to visit more.  They seemed delighted, overall.  Our highlight, though, was when God interrupted our “task” with some unexpected people.  A young guy came up to me as we were leaving one parlor, and asked what we were doing.  I said we were going around blessing local businesses and offered him a pack of Twizzlers.  He said he’d trade Twizzlers for weed, and would I join him in a celebratory smoke?  The Scripture says, If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

I was very unbiblical and refused, but we entered into a wonderful conversation.  He was on his way to get married at the Rastafarian church down the road.  I kept looking at him and his fiancé, who joined us after a bit, and felt such love and compassion and hope for them.  They were as open as could be, welcomed our prayers with outstretched hands, and kept telling us we were so cool, even though we were preaching the Gospel to them, which isn’t always cool.

There is hope for this generation.  Of course there is, but some of us actually believe there isn’t, if we’re honest.  I am seeing young people transformed right before my eyes.  A man who was in prison a few months ago, dedicated His life to Jesus and is giving his life to missions.  I watched a youth who was an atheist a few months ago, picking up a mic and declaring he is opening His heart to the Father’s love.  These are people in my every day life; this is happening right now!  I even know some good young people who just realized their goodness doesn’t come from following rules and they encountered the Father for themselves.  That’s a real miracle.

This is not a hopeless generation!  Ask God to lead you to the ones who are hungry for truth, and He will do it.

 

Easter Celebrations

This year we broke from our Easter tradition of hosting an art gallery, and took a mini family vacation instead.  We got an airbnb in the mountains in a tiny town called Nederland and spent a lovely day breathing deeply and that’s about it.  It used to be a mining town, which is why the Dutch came and named it Nederland but there really wasn’t much of the Netherlands there, tucked into the Rockies.

Easter morning we went to a sunrise service downtown.  I was freezing cold and annoyed at the inefficiency and incompetence on display (a very Weaver thing to feel, I think) and then Adam thawed and I got to wrestle a wiggling 2-yr-old for an hour.  He kept saying, “Devil’s dead!” very loudly, and in the same breath yelled, “I’m farting!”  It was a special Easter morning, the kind you can only have with toddlers.


We came home and had a lovely brunch with several other families.  The dads, instead of taking naps on their recliners as in the Mennonite tradition, went outside and hid Easter eggs.  I am 31 and this was the first Easter egg hunt of my life.  It was very fun, because there were lots of kids and chocolate and little surprises and so much laughter.  Ellie says it was the best Easter in the whole world, and Adam kept saying, “Let’s do it again!”  I trust that in future years the power of the Gospel will overshadow the power of the chocolate eggs, but for now we were all just delighted in our own ways.

It was a joyful weekend, filled with such sweet memories.  (only one or two that weren’t so sweet)  Our life is so full and intense, but God is teaching us how to take Sabbaths and not only that, but how to live from rest every day.  What I’ve cut out (pleasing people, performance, serving out of obligation) God has replaced with abundant grace and joy.  But my number one victory for this year?  Getting up early, like 4:30 or 5:00 early.  It’s changed my life.  The little twin that goes along with that is going to bed early and I have fully embraced that too.

There are a number of things I could point out about this photo, like how I have been wearing that polkadot dress for about 15 years.  I can hear the voice of that sweet little Southern guy who asked me many years ago, “Ain’t it taaaam to update your staaaal?”  I’m sure he would be disappointed to know that no, it still isn’t time to update my style.  I will probably be wearing this dress when I’m holding my grand babies, sir.

Isn’t it easier to be joyful and a Christian in general, in the springtime!?  Just being warm helps a lot already.  Blessed spring, peeps!

Overwhelmed

Is it just me, or are options overwhelming?  I’m glad we have options in this life, but too many of them make me turn into a fluffy-brained snail.

This becomes really evident at the grocery store when I am trying to buy some cheese or something.  There are so many kinds, so many brands, so many options.  I feel like crying, I feel like yelling at somebody to help me, and I feel incompetent.  In short, I feel overwhelmed.

So I’ve been on a quest to pare down my options.  There are two mothers I think about a lot: Ma Ingalls and Abraham’s wife Sarah.  I’m not sure why them, except that they represent eras to me– a time when life was much harder and much more simple.  It was kind of fragile and wild too, like the earth swallowing people and then special breakfast appearing on the ground.  I think of Ma Ingalls’ era quite romantically, I’m afraid.  Reading Little House on the Prairie, I’m always reminding myself how very hard survival was back then but my heart just longs to live in such a simple time.

I thought about these two women a lot when I was assessing the options I could remove from my life.  I felt silly, because well, it seems like such a first world problem– to have too many options that you have to work hard to get rid of some.  I think these women woke up every day and simply did what needed to be done in order to keep their families alive.  That was their option.

I, on the other hand, get up in the morning and have 25 breakfast options and that’s not even counting the coffee options: French press, pour over, latte, cappuccino, cream, creamer, sugar (raw, refined, brown, white, organic, or full of GMOs).  You know what I mean?  It’s crazy.

Here I take a moment to list some of the things I did to reduce my daily, dizzying options.

  1. Only buy food that’s on sale.  I go online to see the weekly ad, and plan my meals around that.  If butter is on sale, I stock up.  Even if butter isn’t on sale, I buy it because I can break the rules for butter.  I just sounded like the Pioneer Woman, didn’t I?
  2. Have a weekly meal outline, then plan specific menus around that.
    Por ejemplo, Monday night we eat pasta.
    Tuesday: meat, potatoes and a vegetable
    Wednesday: rice and beans/curry (I add chicken and subtract tofu)
    Thursday: soup when it’s cold, salad when it’s warm (add spicy chicken to the salad for sure)
    Friday: hopefully seafood and not leftovers
    Saturday: pizza (most of the time it’s DiGiorno because I believe in a day of rest)
    Sunday: waffles
  3. Have a morning routine.  I wrote about that in excruciating detail a couple months ago.  Trust me, it’s not as hard as it sounds and it’s well worth the beginning effort, in case you’re thinking of implementing your own morning routine.  I hereby give you creative license to be yourself and design a routine you really love.  🙂  The morning routine cuts out all the options of what to do when I wake up.  Even if there are some demanding chores staring me down, I have my morning routine and that is what we do.  Save the chores!  (for chore time)
  4. Buy second-hand clothes only in April and October.  Hj doesn’t adhere to the second-hand rule, because it’s rather difficult for a Dutchman to find used clothing in the USA.  I  have no room to store clothes and I am not very sentimental, so I consign all my kids clothes and use that money to buy for the next season.  In between, I don’t even have to think about clothes.
  5. Go zero waste!  This is more of a “long obedience in the same direction”; not an overnight change.  I have always loved being resourceful and creatively making do, so this one is fun for me, as well as great for limiting options.  When I decided to buy no new plastic, it cut down about 86% of my options in the store.  Very freeing, I tell you.
  6. Ask God for a word and then stick to it.  This has been enormously helpful to me recently.  In YWAM we talk about the seven spheres of society and how the kingdom of God impacts each of these.  I asked God which sphere I am to focus on right now and He gave me a clear answer.  Now when I am asked to do things outside of that sphere, I immediately say no.  I don’t even pray about it, no matter how tempting it is.  It’s not an option.  Last year, my word was to be a wife first and then a mother, and that is pretty much all God allowed me to do.  It was great– I loved it so much.  You would think it might be restrictive but actually, I grew.  This year, I can be a wife, a mother and help run a school and I don’t feel overwhelmed.  I’m suspicious I was enlarged, like on a Xerox.
  7. Be yourself– cut out comparison.  “We have great capacity to be ourselves, but a very small capacity to be someone else.”  I developed this very profound quote; how do you like it?  It is really hard to try to be someone else, but it is 100 times harder to be 100 other people.  There are so many different kinds of beautiful moms nowadays that I see on Instagram, but I have one option– to be just like Joy Fousert and that’s it.  I believe it is the nature of God to just be yourself (the great I AM), but if you’re used to people pleasing, this can be a little icky at first.

And that!  Is how I stay under-whelmed instead of over-whelmed.

Adam turns two!

Today, Adam is two years old.  Two years ago, he was born right here in an old hotel room on this sprawling campus.  While I labored, Ellie joined some new friends at the welcome dinner.  Hj had to miss the welcome party, unfortunately, but I’m glad he did.  He did a stellar job coaching me and catching his son.

Three months later we flew to Indonesia for two months with two babies.  Ellie turned two somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, but now I realize we really had two babies.  It was fun and adventurous and humid, and I don’t ever want to do it again.  I’m glad we survived and today we have two funny little toddlers who make our days delightful.  They actually both sleep 10 or 11 hours at night, which I still don’t take for granted.

I was watching Adam yesterday as he tooled around the house throwing stuff.  He seems to have an insatiable desire to throw everything right now.  There doesn’t seem to be much pre-meditation.  Today it was the butter dish.  Often I’m struck in the face by a stuffed animal when I wasn’t thinking about stuffed animals at all.  “Catch it, Mommy!  You missed!” he yells, just a few seconds late.  Foresight would just mean the world to me, I think.  I keep wondering at what age it is typical for boys to start thinking ahead.  Hj thinks probably around 27.

We find Adam pretty charming, nevertheless.  He makes friends everywhere he goes.  His little face is so expressive and he is almost always sweet and affectionate.  He’s super goofy (a stray gene).  He loves telling tall tales that make us laugh, usually starting with “Once upon a time there was a ti-i-i-i-ny little monkey.”  He is brave and wild and messy, just like a little boy should be.

Ellie and Adam play in a make-believe world most of the day, and poor little Adam is most often subjected to play “Julia,” for some reason.  I suspect it’s because he is a lot more controllable when he is Julia, being bossed by Ellie, “the mom.”  Adam, as I know him, is quite averse to being bossed around but Julia is a docile little lamb who meekly follows mother’s orders.  Is there a deep life lesson in that?

I am still not used to the fact that I have a son, but I love it more every day.  Every morning when he stumbles out to the living room in his pajamas, proclaiming cheerfully, “I wake upped!” I’m reminded what a priceless gift he is to our family.  I mean that, he really is our pride and joy; he is the world’s most wonderful boy.  Happy birthday, little man!