Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Pink Ceiling Fan

As you know, this summer has been a challenging one. A long lesson in faith, I guess. A lesson I feel sure that I failed in many ways. I have been so discouraged and have done a whole lot of praying and asking God to take my teeny tiny mustard seed faith and grow it.

A couple things we have learned and are learning are that God is with us, even in the dark places, where it is easy to feel His silence. And that it is SO very important to keep your eyes fixed on things above and not on earthly things. I did a lot of confessing this past weekend about where my eyes were fixed. I had to get to a place of finding my peace in my Lord and Savior and not in prayers answered or unanswered. It is a daily battle, for sure!

This past Monday, we woke up thinking, "Oh my goodness, we have 7 days left to find a place to live." I began my Monday with (reluctant) renewed vigor in my search and had several disappointments that day. On Tuesday, I gathered my waning strength and tackled the search again. Waning because sometimes it's hard to keep going after numerous disappointments in a row. Like 2 years worth. I felt very depleted and weary but somehow God gave me the strength to get through another day.

I made an appointment Wednesday to look at a condo. I went prepared with all the information I needed to fill out an application immediately, having learned my lesson from our lost house a few weeks ago. I felt sick to my stomach as we pulled up (my gma came with E and I) because the pressure felt so big.  Five days left and no other prospects to fit our family. My grandma asked if she could pray for me and she prayed specifically that I would have such peace if it was a good place.

I took a deep breath and walked inside hand-in-hand with Eliana and as soon as I walked in and started looking around, peace settled over me and I knew I found a place we could live.

And so, today, after 2 months of searching, we signed a lease to our "new" home for the next year. Praise the Lord! What a weight off. It is a condo with 3 good-sized bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and even a small garage! We've never even had such a thing:) There is green grass out back for the kids to play and even a cute wooden playground a couple houses away for all the neighborhood kids to play on. The landlords are sweet and our children are absolutely ecstatic to finally have a place of our own! Orange door and all:) And the icing on the cake? The darling pink ceiling fan in the room where Eliana will sleep. We all walked in, spotted it, and knew that it was a oh-so-small but special way for God to say, "I'm here with you."

We have the weekend to start moving stuff over but will probably do our bigger furniture on Monday, when (hopefully) we find some help. My poor, poor piano is desperate for air!!

A few other blessings for the day: registration for the boys' new school was very easy and they start on Tuesday. It is hard to switch them again after just a week and a half of school but I think knowing we will be settling down will help them transition more easily. Please pray for a smooth transition for them, new friends and great teachers!

And to top off the day, Ben got a small raise today and was told they are going to start grooming him for a higher position in the company. Wow!

So the lesson I want to remember in all of this is that God does hear and care and even the smallest things are important to Him. Like making a little girl feel special with her very own pink ceiling fan....

Which makes her mama feel loved, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Closing summer and making plans.

 Our boys survived their first week at a brand-new school! This week didn't look anything like we originally thought it would, a couple months ago. I told the boys we would probably be settled in our new place long before school started and have time to scope out the area and meet some kids at the parks, etc.

Instead, we chewed our fingernails to bits (figuratively speaking, of course!), waiting and waiting for the answer to prayer that was sure to come before school started.....only to have the answer not be the one we hoped for. I am SO proud of my boys for doing as well as they did this week. They did a whole lot better than their mama, that's for sure.

The 2nd and 3rd days of school went a lot smoother than the first (the drop-off was frustratingly chaotic) and the boys had some really good things to say. Samuel even got rewarded for good listening at school on a behavior chart all the classes have. He felt really good about that!

My grandma has been hauling us all over town for the past month since Ben started his jobs. The kiddos are in a tight squeeze in the back of her little Taurus, which makes for many repeated reminders that we are in a small space together and need to keep our voices DOWN. But they are happy kiddos, even if ornery:)

Last Saturday, we got to spend some much-needed time with Grandma and the boys cousins! We had a very full day, starting with brunch! We ate, then played at a cute park, went to Target, had frozen yogurt and ended up at the river to throw rocks:)

4 boys and one little princess:) (one boy is missing from the picture!)

That's Eliana carrying her brother's pirate sword around. She's pretty ferocious, isn't she?!

They had so much fun it was hard to tear them away!! We had such a nice day:)

On Tuesday, my trio and I decided to have one last little hurrah before the busy school season started. We headed over to the pool and were one of the first to arrive! It was a pretty low-crowd kind of day, for which we were very thankful.

The boys had SUCH a good time and actually spent time swimming (finally!) and did not want to leave. I feel like they finally got the hang of swimming and relaxing at the pool, only to have the season end!

Buddies:) (Well, okay, let's be honest here. This came after some screaming on Eliana's part and a refusal to scoot over on Z's part. But finally the law won and peace was made.)

Chillin' in his own chair:) He has begged to go back to the pool every day this week!

And something fun! Guess whose book is out?! That's right. Check out that name at the top!

And it's a doozy, too, coming in at 508 pages. Yes, sirree Bob, that's a whole lotta work that went into that book. 4 years to be exact....Oh, well, 5 if you count the painful process of editing!

Don't be asking for a copy anytime soon, though. A) You probably won't understand very much of it:) and B) It costs a whopping $160 a book. Wow.

Ben likes to say that it also doubles as a fly-swatter, a cure for insomnia or a great window-holder upper. His joking aside, I am super proud of him! He accomplished what few people can with his studies and even though we can't exactly see how God will use his knowledge and giftings, we are trusting that someday we will!
And as for other updates, Eliana got into preschool! It's been very difficult to sign up for anything at all since our whole life has been up in the air but we found a place for her 2 days a week and she is SOOO excited! She was bringing her book bag to her brothers' school open house and wanting to put her supplies inside their desks (break my heart!) so we kept assuring her we would find something soon! This just fell into place a few days ago, very easily. And as I am needing to count all of my blessings right now, however big and small, I am very thankful for this! She starts in just over a week.

Also, we are trying to learn not to be stressed out by deadlines because we are learning that our timelines and God's are apparently not the same. Boo. We only have until September 1st here before we absolutely have to leave. The only way we could get a really brief extension would be if we could tell them a specific date we were moving into a new place. The board has been gracious enough to allow us to stay here all summer but the time has come for us to move on.

Not that we haven't been trying. I admit, I have been incredibly discouraged and frustrated this week by all of the dead-ends and bizarre experiences we have had with trying to find a place to live. We have never ever had trouble like this. Some days I really want to give up and move to England. Please pray, of course, that this would be the week God would open up something for us, but most of all, for me to fix my eyes on Him and not on things that I think would make things easier. Like, I don't know.....having a place to live and being able to settle and make plans. Things like that. I'm having a hard time letting that go and keeping my eyes upwards and I really need some prayer for grace.

After all, drawing close to our Father, in the midst of trials and pain, shows us that nothing here on earth can really ever satisfy us or give us true peace. I need to learn where my true source of Peace is and draw from it (Him), instead of assuming I'll feel peace once my prayers are answered. Tough lesson to learn.

And I think I'd rather learn my lesson asap instead of feeling the way I have this past week or two....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

School Days...

Well, the day we have been dreading all summer came upon us today...the first day of school! We (mostly I) agonized about what to do about school since we have no place to live (still) but finally at the end of last week, I had to submit the paperwork to start the boys in school here where we are staying. The principal was very kind to us, going out of her way to talk to me on the phone at length, answering all of my questions and telling me about the school and then showing the boys all around the building when we dropped off paperwork.

This is the school where they are going right now. It is only a few years old and very nice! We got to see the boys' classrooms on Monday night and meet their teachers, both of whom were very nice. Z's teacher is very affectionate and gives him hugs already and says she just loves his name! Samuel's teacher is very nice, although a little more reserved.

Zakkai was bouncing all around this morning, so excited to go! Samuel takes after his old mama and was a bundle of nerves:( He was very teary-eyed when he realized all his friends at home started school today, too. He barely ate any breakfast so we sent him with prayers and hugs!

It was beyond chaotic to drop them off this morning. We are used to a much more organized system so it was intimidating for us but thankfully, we found both boys' teachers and got them in their lines and off to the races. It was a long, quiet day without them! My mom came with me to pick them up this afternoon, which was really nice and both boys came out with smiles and said they had good days!

They had a lot to say about what went on today. My biggest impression is that the school is very big on being kind to others and encouraging reaching out to other students. Samuel had a couple boys in his class make a point to ask him to play with them at recess, which I was so glad to hear! It is really hard being the new kid; I remember well.

We also went to the opening night for Awana at the church we have been attending for the last month and we signed all 3 kids up! We met some very nice people there and it made us feel like we could actually get to know people and get a feeling of belonging if this keeps up.

Now if we can just find a place to live....ugh!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

De-weeding and letting go.

We were all out in the yard the other day, helping to water the plants and pulling weeds. I had a few minutes to myself on the side of the house, the hot sun beating down on my hatted head. I was reflecting on weeds as I pulled them, knowing they have been used in spiritual applications many times.

Some weeds are actually pretty. They look like happy little plants. Some have flowers or bright colors, like dandelions. They look so harmless, so green and alive. But as I struggled to pull out the roots of these seemingly harmless plants, I remembered that they aren't harmless. When allowed to grow unchecked, they choke the life out of the healthy plants you want to grow. Sometimes the roots come out so easily, others have to be dug out with more force and thoroughness, else they come back again and squelch out life.

This time in our life has been so challenging. We have been and are being thoroughly de-weeded. And it hurts. One day I feel grace and peace enough to get through the day and the next I feel so messy inside. I don't know which way is up and which way is down. Sometimes I can't hear God's voice through the chorus of voices in my life. This has been a harder week for me. And it's only Tuesday....

I've been fighting God on a few different things and that's a yucky place to be. A lot of people have a lot of great ideas of where/what/who we should be right now and it's all born out of love but sometimes God doesn't have the same ideas. I think that I'm coming to the realization that I've been hanging on to some things that I was sure God was going to give us since He didn't "give" us any of the other things we asked for. I've realized that maybe I thought Ben had to let everything go and I could hang on to a few last wisps of dreams.

But no.....God, in his gentle, not-so-gentle way has been quietly pulling out roots and speaking to me about giving in and fully trusting Him with everything. I won't go into too many specifics because I'm not entirely sure how this will all play out in the next week or two but I think maybe God has been saying no to a lot of things lately, like every single bit of housing we have been applying for/looking at, including the one we fell in love with last week, because He wants us to give it ALL up. Every single little thing. Ben has reached that point already and is in a place of a lot more peace than I have been in. He already had to fight through giving up his dreams and any ideas of what a job or the future would look like. It was and is an incredibly painful process. One I wouldn't wish on anyone.

I had to give it all up, too, just not quite in the same way. And the last thing I've been hanging onto is the idea that maybe since we obeyed and walked away and gave up so much, He would bless us with a nice place to live. A house, perhaps, with a yard for the kids to run in and bright windows to welcome in the sunshine. A nice neighborhood, excellent schools, happy neighbors. The whole nine yards. It seems like such a small thing to hope for.

There is an apartment we have been offered; that I'm positive I can get tomorrow if I want. But I don't want it. It's old, ugly and cheap "apartment-y" looking.  It's really small. It's not in the area I wanted to live or wanted my kids to go to school. No, it's not in a bad area and is by pretty good schools but it's not what I wanted! I have been fighting it so very hard. I really, really wanted the brand-new house with the cheery yellow laundry room and the pretty soft gray walls with white trim. I wanted the big backyard and the brand-new deck so we could sit out back on the nice evenings and be still and content. I wanted space and color and a feeling of home!

But God doesn't want me to have it right now. I don't know why. I am struggling to let go of the why. He wants me to want Him. Nothing less and nothing more. Just Him.

I think that I'm not the only one who will have to give this small dream up. I think our families will have to let go, too, and just trust that we will be okay. We will thrive and grow and be okay if our focus is above and not here on earthly things. We are being called to deeper things and a deeper outlook on life that the world doesn't understand. We look crazy from the outside and not many people know what to do with us. But God does know what He is doing and I am praying for the courage and the strength to believe that.

Even if I don't understand it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pictures and Updates!

I have a few new updates for our situation (and prayer requests!) but first a few pictures of our summer fun:)

A few weeks ago, we went to the zoo with the boys' cousins. It was our first trip to the Columbus Zoo; hot but fun! They had so much fun together!

The boys had their last soccer practice of the summer last week! It was a beautiful night, too. We had a lot of fun watching them all summer, except for the week we sat in the chilly rain to cheer them on;)

After the last practice, Ben's mom (Grandma!) treated us all to ice cream at the local Dairy Queen wanna-be. It was a great night for ice cream!

Zakkai, if you can't tell, had a very blue raspberry slushy! Either that or he's really cold;)

Ah! He was very proud of that blue tongue!

Copying her brother:) She looks like a little orphan Annie with the dirt all over her face. She face-planted into the dirty mulch on the little playground while Samuel and Zakkai were playing soccer.

And a few days ago, we met some friends at a cute park to play.

It was really hot out in the sun so we were practically melting by the time we left!

Two of my cuties:)

And this past weekend, the kids and I drove to Dayton to meet with some of our old house group cronies! And by old, I mean long-time, not old! We went to the Cox Arboretum and had a lot of fun checking out their different gardens, the Butterfly house and even a maze! This was a really cool tree house tower that we climbed. Samuel is at the WAY top:)

Here is Zakkai in the maze.

Eliana and her friend A. were having fun running around until Eliana fell into a bush. Then all her tiredness came to the fore and she hung out in the stroller for awhile.

We went into the Butterfly House, which was sadly lacking butterflies but had lots of caterpillars! I pulled out my fun camera and snapped a couple of cool (I thought!) pictures. This was a really pretty green and black striped caterpillar. No idea what kind but pretty still!

And this big guy was hanging on having a little lunch:) Such cool little creatures!

And for a few little updates on our situation for those who are interested:)

1. Ben now has 3 (count 'em THREE) part-time jobs! He works about 60 hours a week. One of them should become full-time soon and while the most least-likely job for my Dr. guy, has been an absolute blessing in the 8 days he has worked there so far. He gets rave-reviews from all of his co-workers and even led someone to the Lord yesterday! Wow. It is a really cool story! We don't see him very much since he is working like a dog, which is really hard but we are so proud of him. His third part-time job (painting) will end in the next week or two and will ease his schedule and that will help.

2. We found a house that we, okay I, (because Ben couldn't come see it) fell in love with and put in an application to rent it today. We should hear back probably tomorrow sometime if they will choose us or not. We SO need a place to live a soon as possible with school starting in the next 2 weeks. The house was falling apart from neglect when the owner of a local company bought it and completely gutted it and is re-doing it. Literally a brand-new house from the inside out! New dry wall, new roof, siding, floors, kitchen, etc. My mom and Samuel and I went to see it yesterday and it was so beautiful! Please, please pray that this works out and if not, for God to provide something else soon.

3. I got to talk to the principal of the local school yesterday (just in case we get to rent the house!) and she was absolutely wonderful to talk to. She was busy with meetings but took a good 45 minutes in between to call me and answer all of my questions. I felt a lot of peace, should our boys go there this year. But #2 has to happen before we can register them!

We feel like things are on the verge of coming together. It has been a struggle this summer and we have had some ups and downs but the past couple of weeks, have really felt God speaking to us about trusting in Him and waiting on His provision for us. He has given us a lot of peace right now, even in the midst of the unknowns and we are incredibly thankful!

Hopefully I will have more good news soon!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Parks and Recreation!

 One day last week, Ben dropped the kiddos and I off at the Park of Roses while he went to a meeting. It was a super hot day so we were wilting rather quickly! I snapped a few cute pictures before we melted:)

Lots of beautiful roses! They were just past their prime but still really pretty.

Without me even saying a word, my 3 darlings started sitting together on the bench to watch the waterfall. They looked so cute!

I asked the boys to scoot a little closer to Eliana and next thing I knew, the boys put their arms around their little sis and it was picture perfect! Just wish I'd had my nice camera instead of my phone...

We saw beautiful yellow roses.

Gorgeous coral colored roses!

Pink for Eliana!

A view from high above:)

We had to combat the extreme heat with constant trips to the water fountain and water on their heads! The boys were seriously due for a haircut!

A few days later, we took a trip to the park! It was a really nice day, as it has been for most of the summer.

We were spending time with the kiddo's cousin, E. She loves our three and constantly yells out, "Cousins!!!"

We were bored one morning and my aunt called to let us know that there was a speed limit checker out on the street and she saw some kids racing to check their speed. We thought that was a great idea and headed out for some fun! Zakkai consistently ran 11 miles per hour!

Samuel was 11 most of the time and sometimes all the way up to 12!

Eliana was too little to activate the checker so the boys ran with her at her speed:) She was about 5 miles per hour and very proud!

We found yet another park in our travels at the beginning of this week and stopped for a little much-needed energy release!


We spotted these at the store yesterday. They are called "Jack fruit." Weird! They were really spikey and very heavy! Anyone ever tried one?

These beautiful flowers are growing in my mom's little backyard! So beautiful!

a few sweet moments! Eliana talked her Grandma-Great into reading a library book with her:)

My mom popped by to see if I wanted to go on a bike ride the other night just as I was getting my trio to bed. They quickly talked their Mugga into reading them a bedtime story and she, like most Grandmas, couldn't refuse!

Our kiddos are soaking up the extra love from their Mugga, Grandma, Grandma-great, Grandpa-great, Papa and aunts! They are getting extra hugs, ice cream, trips to the pool and the park and their very own fan clubs at soccer games!