Mid-January ramblings & pics

Mid-January ramblings & pics

I am obsessed with Shilo’s voice. It’s so cute and slightly raspy and she’s trying out all the big words like “decorations” and “Corduroy” and “definitely”, even if she mispronounces them.

She’s talking a lot lately, and both she and Noella are full of constant conversation and observation. “Mom. Hey mom. Remember when we rode on the airplane, and we stayed in a hotel and the elevator had lots of buttons and daddy let me push one?” “Hey mom. Mom. Hey mom, why are there three birds flying above that house and not four birds?” “Hey mom. Daddy drove his truck to work not our car. Because we will be the ones to drive in our car.”
I field so many questions (SO MANY) in a given day, that I’ve started mixing up my responses just to entertain myself. My go-to is “you’re kitten me right meow.” It’s ridiculous and Shawn thinks I’m ridiculous but one day he tried to mock me and he said it in response to something I said to him, but ended it with an actual meeeeeow, and I almost fell right off the couch from laughing so hard.

Noella lives and breathes baby dolls. She takes such good care of them. If it’s cold outside she zips them up in her coat so they can stay warm. She has such a sweet heart. But also, if I have to dress one more plastic baby doll I may pass out.

Someone has to be the first to apologize in your marriage relationship. When we were first married I’d wait for it to be Shawn, growing frustrated that he wouldn’t make a move toward some kind of reconciliation. But of course I wasn’t making a move either. We were both stuck in selfishness. Now I know that someone just has to make that first move and the faster someone says sorry the faster you can mend the hurts that took place. It’s okay to be the first to say you’re sorry.

We decided to have a fancy dinner on Sunday, consisting of grilled waygu steak, scallops, casesar salad, and what I call “rich people carrots” (we managed to find them on clearance, but you know the ones, long and skinny with the long flowy parsley-looking greenery at the top?). It was fun and of course the meal was divine. I set the table with cloth napkins which is when you know we fancy (but not like Applebee’s on a date night).

We flew a kite the other day with the girls and it was so miserably cold and the string got all tangled and I had to chase our horse-dog down the street when he escaped but I guess memories were made??

Sometimes I play referee all day and it is the hardest thing ever. Other times, they play happily after church wearing matching heart dresses and I melt.
Cloth napkins that have moved all over the world with us. (Kristen, remember when you bought these for me at Market Street Cafe?)
Home. The good, the hard, the gratitude, the candles, the kisses, the memories.
Shawn and his butterfly kite: a memoir
Delightful dinner documented
Ear muffs, CO hats, and tongues sticking out
Hoarder status: strong Cute status: STRONG
Trimmed off the long flowy greenery and made a carrot bouquet
Baby Meg zipped up to stay warm.
Horse-dog hugs

There’s no real point to this blog post, other than to stop and remember the big and little things we have to be thankful for, and to note the fun/busy/cute stages our girls are at. Thank you, God, for cooler days, kites, scallops, grocery carts full of stuffed animals, and this family that you crafted just for us.

The gifts of 2021

The gifts of 2021

The highlight of my year can be summed up in what Noella told me yesterday. She said, with complete honesty and sincerity, “Mom, I love you more than cheese.” WOW. Have you ever known a love like that? So beautiful. Also, cheese is heaven and everyone knows that, so to be loved MORE THAN CHEESE? That’s a mic drop on the whole year, honestly.

Our year began with a dusting of sequins throughout the house as two little girls dressed in their princess dresses, complete with tiaras and wands and those death-defying little plastic dress up heels, where you’re just waiting for someone to slip and break and ankle. Seeing Shawn’s “enthusiasm” in trying on their tiaras as a girl dad who grew up with four brothers was pretty epic as well. I gotta say, he can really rock a pink unicorn princess tiara with feathers on it.

Another highlight of our year was the arrival of Shawn’s long-awaited and much-researched wood fired pizza oven. It even came in one of those giant wooden crates that baby elephants come in in the movies, so that was fun. Your circle of friends will grow once word gets out that you have a pizza oven, but we’re not above buying our friendships with food. And be forewarned, the toppings can be somewhat obscure at times, but that’s how we like it. If you’re local and want an invite to our next pizza party, just like the link to this blog post. Leave a comment and we might even serve you dessert. But no promises!

This year we went to the beach with friends and even merged our last names into a new last name. Like when Ben and Jennifer became Beniffer. Something like that. Btw, traveling with little kids is so hard but so worth it! And if you go with friends you get to wake up with that look of solidarity like, “You sleep well? Nope. Me neither. Want some coffee?”

On the way home from that beach trip, we got the hookup from a friend who works with the penguins at Sea World to go behind the “employees only” sign and meet two baby penguins! It was the most magical, fluffy, high pitch squawky, and unforgettable experience. The girls each got a penguin stuffed animal and Noella wanted to hurry out to the car so she could turn the AC on for her penguin. Awwwwwwwwwwww.

Shawn gave me a ginormous bouquet of flowers on the day that would have been the due date for our girl/boy twins. It was such a meaningful gesture. That was a big loss and we circle back to it from time to time. That’s how grief works. As Kacey Musgraves says, “healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.”

It was also the year we lost grandma Joan. But our loss is heaven’s gain, and those aren’t cutsie words, she’s in paradise and we celebrate that. Even though we miss her here. The trip out to Colorado was a big one, a 12-hour drive one way, on a whim when we heard she wasn’t doing well. I’m so glad we went when we did. We knew it was to say goodbye and that made for a tearful but such a meaningful journey home. I cherish those last conversations with her, and that time with uncles, cousins, parents, and siblings. If you love someone, tell them, thank them for who they’ve been in your life. I’m so glad I had those opportunities with my grandma, and I want to carry that into 2022. Speak love, don’t hold back on telling someone they matter to you.

There was more travel this year which felt especially rewarding after a year of lock-up where we couldn’t even go to Dollar General. We went to San Antonio just the two of us, toured the river walk, ate some A+ tex mex, and met some fun 50-somethings who were on a girl’s trip from Phoenix, and we ended up hanging out downtown one evening. It’s so fun meeting strangers. I got to go to my home state of Colorado by my SELF, see my family, enjoy a night away in the Rockies with my sisters and cousin, and meet my new baby niece. Just the airport experience alone is relaxing when you’re alone. No one was begging me for snacks (except me, I was begging me for snacks), and you get to sit alone with your thoughts as the clouds pass you by. We also went to Fredericksburg just the two of us, walked the little German streets and enjoyed the shops, had a good Hefeweizen, and star gazed from the Airbnb hot tub. We alsoooo, finally managed to meet some of our dearest Ohio couple friends in Cancun, Mexico! We ate lots of fresh fish tacos, and swam, and lounged, and laughed, and it was just the best time. Again, traveling with kids is hard but worth it, and on the flip side, travel without kids is heavenly and so much fun. But it takes about 200 years of planning and prep and finding the right person you trust to stay with the kids, and 1-2 novels of instructions for while you’re gone, but again, doable and so worth it. You just have to make it a priority to have time together alone as a couple. Coffee dates or big trips, it’s up to you what you want to do, but just do it!

I was having a hard day one day this year and Shawn was out of town, and low and behold, there was a knock at the door, and he had had a local company deliver a charcuterie board to me! (Which, I should say, Shawn calls them “shitshiterie” boards because he’s Shawn and sarcastic and has a name for everything – like Hobby Lobby is “Hobster Slobster”) It’s a lost cause to apologize on behalf of Shawn, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. (Also, I’m so grateful for a thoughtful man in my life. Shawn is the thoughtful man, btw. In case you were confused.)

We moved this year! We weren’t looking to move, good grief, we’ve done enough of that to cover a few lifetimes. But this beautiful house came on the market, and we put in an offer sight unseen while we were on vacation, from our balcony at the beach… oh, and this house is in the same neighborhood where we lived before. We have some more land and we’re in a cul-de-sac, and the arched doors were love at first sight. We’re so so thankful for this gift we didn’t expect. We also gained some awesome neighbors on this street. We logged a lot of hours in the driveway this summer with Mr Fred and Miss Sandy and the girls on their bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk.

We joined a community pool this summer and that filled many of our days with fun. And sunscreen. And floaties. And lime La Croix. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Texas gets hot in the summer.

Shawn hit some personal goals at work this year and looked good in a tie at the same time.

Some family came from Ohio for a visit (Shawn’s oldest brother and his family) this summer and we had the best time out on a boat, and hiking at the state park, and enjoying a double date for the adults at our fave place in town.

We read 34,550 ish books to the girls this year. I love that they love to read and play pretend. It’s a beautiful part of childhood. My favorite is when Shilo will sit and “read” out loud to herself, making up the story as she goes along.

I had a big birthday bash this year on our new outdoor patio! Friends, live music, candles, karaoke, food by Shawn, make your own bouquets-to-go… and my dad and sister surprised me and came all the way from Colorado! The phone call saying they’ll be here in an hour was a super, super special part of my year.

I got a new tattoo. Shawn nailed his home roasted coffee. We went to Ruidoso, New Mexico with my sister and her family and stayed in a cabin with a VIEW. The girls played in their sand box. They wore a lot of fun shaped sunglasses and had a lot of dance parties. There was love, learning, and living and we are so grateful for the gifts of this year.

Wishing you a 2022 cholk (chalk?) full of joy and happy memories.

Love story tattoo

Love story tattoo

(Just because I have a love story tattoo and then wrote a blog post about it does not mean we’re perfect or are even close to having it all figured out. Just two nights ago we got into a fight (over nothing) and he spent the evening on the patio smoking a cigar and I spent the evening enraged-cleaning the toy room and we didn’t talk until finally someone said those words that are simple but so incredibly hard to say, “I’m sorry.” You should know that marriage is a lifetime of that: being rude, selfish, and then finding the words to say you’re sorry, and beginning again. And that’s what we’re working on. It’s hard sometimes because we’re all jerks by nature and it’s hard to choose another person over ourselves, every day, forever. But with God’s grace, it’s possible! You can know we’re fine now because Shawn has since chased me around the house with the shock collar and tried to buzz me and I screamed. Flirtatious little school boy. That’s when you know it’s good.)

Okay, here’s the background on the tattoo on my arm:

That little airplane at the top is the 5-seater Cesna that we flew in over the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, South America (where we met) on our way to a tribe in the Amazon jungle. Our whole team flew over, five at a time, and Shawn (21, from Ohio), and myself (16, from Colorado) ended up on the same trip into the tribe. I was petrified to fly on such a small plane, but it ended up being a thrill. Takeoff felt like we were speeding along in a go-cart, until we were suddenly higher, so high we could almost swoop down and touch the snow that frosted the grand peaks of the Andes. That view left me speechless. The mark of a Creator was evident there. There’s no way those things just happen, just form themselves at will. There’s no way we would “just so happen” to meet on a trip like that, meet primitive Indians and buy their bows and arrows, share those life experiences, and eventually marry and continue the adventure. It was God who brought us together, an answer to a young Jenn’s prayer for a someday-husband, and an answer to Shawn’s prayer for a someday-wife.

The 1/3 and the envelope both symbolize the three-page love letter that landed in my mailbox years after we met in Bolivia. It also happened to arrive on Valentine’s Day… a detail Shawn never considered but God had a hand in. The letter was gutsy and asked if a guy like him ever had a chance with a girl like me. I sure am glad he took that risk and sent me that letter.

The rose is from the day Shawn proposed, only I didn’t know he was going to propose. I didn’t know when he gave me a ride from where I was living in Wisconsin to my home in Colorado that he had sold his shotgun and had a diamond ring in his pocket the whole time. We had only been “calling each other” for three months, we didn’t even live in the same state. But nevertheless, he didn’t waste any time. (Thank goodness.) I’d later learn that’s the Shawn DeAtley way: go big or go home. So it wasn’t until later in the day after he proposed at Glenmere Park (my favorite park in my hometown) that the dozen roses he had given me earlier that morning were roses of significance. He and his older brother had made a pact to never give a girl a dozen roses until the day they were going to propose. Lucky me, the first to get a dozen roses from Shawn.

The love letter also represents the Bible, the greatest love letter ever written. If you’re not sure, stop listening to those around you/the culture/podcasts/even the pastor, push your preconceived notions aside, and read it for yourself. We deserved death and hell, and Jesus provided a way. There’s no greater love story than that!!

Here’s a blog post on my first tattoo: hope on my arm.

Love bridging two worlds

Love bridging two worlds

I walk around and I’m really two people (or maybe more…). I’m then and I’m now. There are so many different experiences that make up who I am today, who I am now. But how do I live in the today when the yesterday is so vivid and real to me, but maybe not relevant to the situation at hand? A simple balloon popping makes me jump, fireworks send my heart racing, and generally those around me don’t think much about it. It sends me right back to where I was hiding in our little tiled bathroom (where we didn’t even have a flushing toilet) in Conakry when military drove up and down the street, shooting into the air and herding people like cattle. There was a mass shooting at a stadium just down the street from our apartment, and the capital was in absolute chaos. We would soon have to evacuate the country and head to another West African country, leaving behind friends, our church, our African host family, and many of our possessions, along with our hopes and dreams to set up and live there long-term as missionaries in a nearby village. Day in and day out, I feel torn between the culture we live in now, the culture we were born into, and the Guinean and Senegalese cultures that became our host cultures for many years. It can leave me feeling isolated and lonely to feel like I don’t fully fit in either culture.
I also feel at times like a stranger living this life as a mom but also unable (and unwilling) to forget the many years of negative pregnancy tests, negative blood tests, and failed fertility treatments we experienced. I’m a mom who didn’t think she’d ever be here, but can also relate to the struggle before me and my mom friends as we try and grasp the magnitude of the responsibility of raising these little souls.
I can relate to the frustration of your local store not having your grocery store pickup item, but we also lived with friends (who are still there) in landmine territory. How do I relate to the here and now while all along I can’t escape the realities of where we lived and what it was like? I can relate to a bruised and swollen belly as you go through your 3rd or 4th fertility treatment, but I also relate to the overwhelming day in and out of teaching, training, correcting, responding to, changing, buckling, tucking, and feeding kids!
I don’t really know how to live in between so many worlds at once. I guess all I can do is continue to be grateful for the lessons learned through those experiences and take hold of the lessons I’m learning now as I look back on what was, on what made me who I am today. In these lessons I never want to stop looking and listening to others in their here and now. What have they gone through? What are they going through? What are they trying to say? How can I relate in some way? Do I pull from the experience of this season I’m in or the season I’ve just come out of? And it all makes me wonder, what was God’s plan in allowing me to go through that season, meet that person, survive that thing, or see God in that way? And if I can’t relate, how can I love and respect them and listen to them in their “was” or “is” life situation?
The beauty is that the pain of isolation, the heartache of grief, fear, PTSD, and struggles can translate across cultural boundaries and even across various seasons of our lives if we let God’s voice be what guides us as we interact with others. Let His grace and compassion be what ties our hearts to the couple struggling to get pregnant, let our grace and generosity be evident as we interact with those living in poverty. I don’t want these experiences to make me feel isolated, even though that can happen when two worlds collide. I want, instead, for love to be the central theme between the various worlds and lives that make me who I am. I want love to be the bridge.

God at work, even then

God at work, even then

We moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming fresh from our years of living and working in the very colorful and social culture of West Africa. It was a culture where it was considered rude to just pass by someone you knew and casually toss out a hey/smile/nod/how’s it going. You stopped, shook hands, you would always shake hands, ask how they were, how their morning was. You wouldn’t stop there, you’d ask about their family, children, how their job was going, you’d ask about their home, their rice meal, and even how the grandparents, and garden were. “Not too many weeds?” “How was your rice last night?” “Did it sit well with you?” “And grandma? How’s she?” You never really ever stepped out of the house without a handful of conversations or social greetings and interactions. There’s not much privacy in a culture like that. Even I, a social butterfly of sorts, felt overwhelmed by it. Sometimes I just wanted to walk to the boutique down the road and buy matches and eggs without a million conversations. But then fast forward to living in America again and it was like, “WHERE THE HECK IS EVERYONE?” We went from feeling like we lived in a fish bowl where everyone knew everything about our lives, comings and goings (especially in the village), observed how we lived, ate, talked, and what we did, to pulling down our street, opening the garage door, and going inside without seeing a soul. It was lonely. It was too far the other direction. I hated not seeing a familiar face who at least knew my name, and I theirs. So what did we do? We started praying for community wherever God would lead us next. We knew Cheyenne wouldn’t be where we’d be for long because, well, we’re nomads, but also because we knew Shawn would soon promote and when presented with that option, we’d accept wherever that position was. When they said, “How about San Angelo, Texas?” We said, “Sure! WHERE IS IT.” And here we are, four years later, with friends enough to come celebrate at a karaoke birthday party, watch your 2 year old at a moment’s notice because your baby is fighting for her life with RSV in the hospital, and friends that know they’re on call for the day a rattle snake appears in your yard and your husband is at work. Here we are with friends and neighbors who help you fix your garage door when your husband is out of town, friends who watch your kids when your flight is delayed and you have no babysitter lined up for that afternoon, friends who check in, friends who ask how your daughter’s class trip to the pumpkin patch went, and friends (framily) who go to the beach with us.
If we hadn’t known loneliness in Cheyenne, would we have even prayed for community at all? If we hadn’t experienced loneliness, would we even look around at these friends and neighbors and see that God picked them as a gift for us? If we hadn’t known the heartache of infertility, would we have ever known the goodness of God in the story he brought our way, even if His timing wasn’t our own? If we hadn’t known infertility, would we be able to relate to and have compassion on those who are suffering in silence? If we hadn’t ever experienced grief, would we have ever been able to fully experience the comfort of God, His embrace that surrounds us in a supernatural way?
Don’t forget that God’s at work even when things don’t look like you think they should! If you’re feeling rejected, discouraged, lonely, lost, grieving – God is still at work, even then. But I also want to remind you to not forget to turn around and see how far God’s brought you. If, dare I say WHEN the situation is better, when it’s what you’ve prayed for, I hope you see that it was GOD who saw you through, answered your prayers, provided a way. He always provides a way. It just might be a path you didn’t foresee, His leading might take you right next to the edge of a cliff, or up a rocky, slippery slope. But He’s working, He’s leading. It’s what He does. Ask for eyes to see it and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions

Our book club recently read Becoming Elisabeth Elliot and The Hiding Place. The women in these stories have both taught me something recently through their faith, suffering, and walking with God: we may never have the answer. Let that sink in for a minute. You may never know here on earth why your husband died a savage death (Elisabeth, known as Betty, lost her husband in the jungles of Ecuador, after he was speared to death by the Waodani Indians they were there to minister to). You may never know why you were put in solitary confinement and forced to endure the realities of a concentration camp (Corrie Ten Boom) or why God allowed it in the first place. You just may not get the answers to life’s hardest questions living here on earth. But you know what? That didn’t stop either of these women from moving forward in their faith, testifying EVEN STILL to the faithfulness of God. I love stories like these, and from others who you’d think “they of all people have a right to stop believing, to question, to waiver in their belief” because of what they’ve gone through. Almost like they get some kind of a “pass” to stray a little bit from God, because doesn’t He have a say in what happens to us, can’t He stop the suffering, the injustice, the grief and despair? But EVEN STILL we have examples in our world of men and women, past and present, who choose to speak of the faithfulness of God, EVEN WHEN the hardest, most painful questions are left unanswered.

I think of Elisabeth and Corrie and how they would handle our own unanswered questions. Why did we have boy/girl twins growing in my belly one year ago, and today we don’t have them here with us? Why? If we were going to end up without them here in our arms, why did God allow for their existence in the first place? Why did they stay safely preserved in the freezer as embryos for four years? Why then did He allow a successful thaw of the embryos and a successful transfer? Why was there a positive pregnancy test after all of those shots and medications and trips to Denver to see our fertility doctor? Why did God allow weeks with them growing in my body, and not a full-term, live birth? If it was going to end, and He knew that, why did He allow weeks and not days? Surely days would have maybe been slightly less painful than weeks, right? I wonder “why”, but not with angry tears like I once had, but with a curious mind, and a heart softened toward knowing I’m not the only one to question why, to question God’s ways and His timing. But I can see from these heroes of the faith that we can move forward in trusting God anyway, even when our questions go unanswered. Our questions can linger there, because He is God and we are not. And maybe that’s where we place our faith. We can place our faith there with Him, the all-knowing God, and live on in peace. 

IVF belly. Bruised, sore, and swollen. But worth it. The twins were from Noella’s IVF cycle. That makes her extra special that she’s here with us! And Shilo’s just a miracle in her own category.
Boy/girl twins! Now with Jesus. It’s one of those unanswered questions. But God is always faithful.

 

This very Tuesday morning

This very Tuesday morning

God help us to know when to pull our girls in and hold them as they struggle with too many emotions and too many tears and not enough sleep. Help us know when to say no and when to guide their emotions to a better reaction, to a better response. Help us to know when to just hold them and when to train them.

Help me to know when to stop and play and when to finish the task of cleaning up refried beans off the rug.

Help me to know what it means to love and speak softly when little people appear at my bedside before I’ve even had a chance to stretch my neck from that weird sleeping position or put my contacts in. (Is is just me or is hard to even be human when you literally can’t even see yet, let alone respond with what breakfast will be.)

God help us when we look back to dwell on the good and happy memories, like the first time we kissed the fresh skin of our babies or embarked on one of our adventures, to see above all, your goodness. And if our minds do pass by the hard days, may we see vividly how faithful you were and not how flawed we (still) are.

God may we see the shift in season (even though it still feels like a mid summer Texas day here) as a new chapter, a fresh start, your mercy going before us.

God, may we be mindful of others: missionaries serving you (killing vipers on the walking trail…), and trying to make their mouths sound out sounds that are so foreign that they sound like toddlers learning to talk. They learn those new sounds and languages to one day share your truth with people. May we be mindful to pray for them, and not just ‘like’ their pictures and journeys on Facebook. May we be mindful of those dealing with chronic diseases. Help us be mindful of those who struggle every day in ways we can’t imagine. May we pray for them when they cross our minds.

God show us your goodness through light streaming in through arched doors, and through daughters with different eye colors, and through husbands who love us like we’ve never been loved before, and through friends who bring sidewalk chalk for the girls, and neighbors who drop off pistachio ice cream.

God, give us the ability to make the most of things: the friendships in our lives, the childhoods you’ve placed in our home, the conversations around the table, this very Tuesday morning.

God, give us your eyes to see our days and our circumstances as you would have us see them.
“Raised in good conditions”

“Raised in good conditions”

When it comes to writing in French I’m a little rusty. There are too many accents and silent letters that I overlook, or rather, ignore. So when it comes to staying in touch with my French speaking friends, I’m especially thankful for any kind of voice memo possibilities. It’s a lot easier to just talk without thinking about grammar and such.

My Guinean friend “C” and I love to stay in touch this way, and just hearing her voice warms my heart. Just hearing the noisy background warms my heart. She still lives in Guinea and I miss her so much. She met me a lifetime ago, when I was 25 and wide-eyed to a new, unfamiliar culture and language. I was a fish so far out of water I was in a dry desert, flopping around as Shawn and I tried to navigate culture shock, homesickness, purpose, and ministry in this new country.

Conakry, Guinea was where we first started out as missionaries, after four years of training and a year of language school in Québec. (See? Those accents will just sneak up on you when you least expect it.)

Conakry was often referred to, even by locals, as “Capital Village”, because even the capital was underdeveloped. We didn’t know any different as this was our first time in Africa. But time would reveal that it was a rough place. But a welcoming, hospitable place unlike many other places we’d ever been, or have since been.

A big part of West African culture is to wish things for people. For example, at the start of a new year you wish them prosperity, and money, and peace, and health, and things like that. (You just keep wishing and wishing and wishing, and the more wishes you lavish upon someone, the better!) So when Noella had her birthday the other day, “C” left a voice memo with lots of wishes for her and her life. One of the things she wished was that she would “be raised in good conditions”. Her sentiment stopped me in my tracks because I know what kind of conditions “C” was raised in and lives in now. I know “C”‘s world because I lived there. I wasn’t raised there, but I can remember so vividly my experiences there. I know her probable realities as a young woman in West Africa. I know her social and cultural expectations and the roles she’s expected to fulfill. I know how hard it can be to find good drinking water, and to have enough power to run your refrigerator or charge your phone. Yes, even in the capital.

Then I look around and see our girls, riding their bikes on our long driveway, matching helmets securely fastened, with food in their bellies and good drinking water always available, and I feel an unshakable guilt. Maybe it’s not guilt, exactly, but a feeling of “why us”? Why are we getting to raise our girls in conditions where medical care is within driving distance, and they aren’t forced into female circumcision like what happened where we lived in Guinea? Why do we have the ability to get educated and vote and run and play and enjoy carefree childhoods? We as Americans are, generally speaking, raised in such good conditions that we don’t even have it in our language to wish that someone be raised in good conditions.

So it sat heavy on my heart and mind for a few days. Partly because the sentiment was so sincere and meaningful, and from someone I love, and someone whose living conditions I still remember. But I don’t want the blessing to be a burden. I want to just do all that I know to do, and that’s to give back (like to practically support missionaries who work to spread the Gospel in these areas and around the world) and to never forget to be grateful. I want to look around at the conditions our girls are being raised in, and not forget to thank God for His many gifts. I want to also thank Him for the experiences that brought us these perspectives. These perspectives don’t forget how it once was, how it could be, and one that reminds us to thank Him for how it is. And above all, we want to thank Him that because of the cross, no matter how our earthly conditions are, or how bad they may get or may seem, there is hope. There is always hope. May Noella and Shilo also be raised in the knowledge of that truth. And that, my friends, is my wish upon wish for you too.

The marathon of motherhood

The marathon of motherhood

I’ve never really ever been the marathon personality type. The type that goes the distance, runs with endurance, continues even when it’s hard type. I’m more of the sprinter type. The who gives it everything for a short bit knowing there’s an end in sight, then takes a long nap on the couch. I admire the marathon type. The ones who get up every morning and do it all again, with perseverance to stay in the game. That’s why I write blog posts and not books. Because books are marathons. I’m a sprinter who would rather write what’s on my heart and hit publish.

But then I became a mom and realized that motherhood is the grand daddy of marathons. Or rather, the mother of all marathons. It’s a race you can’t quit. But what if you want to? What if the whining and the monotony and the training and the nonstop talking and the messes and the sibling squabbles and the day after day and ALL OF IT JUST BECOMES TOO MUCH?!

You have to keep running.
You have to keep looking up.
You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As soon as you start to take your eyes off of Jesus, the overwhelm will overwhelm you and you’ll be pacing the driveway with a fake cigarette in your hand.

You can try and sit on the sidelines and binge a show or have another gin & tonic with the colorful little straws, but none of that will equip you to stay in the race. None of that will equip you to finish well the race that is set before us.

Is the race the same e’ry day, over and over, all day long? Yep.
Is it exhausting? YESSSSS.
Is it doable? Yes it is, in fact. Doable and hard can be in the same sentence. That’s what I’m learning in my race right now. This desire to escape when it gets hard is ingrained in me. But quitting is not how we win this race.

By the way, “winning” in the context of the motherhood marathon means a few different things to me:

– Finding joy when I want to quit
– Loving like Jesus (umm, not yelling, getting annoyed, acting more childish than the actual children, forgiving)
– Being willing to begin again, each morning, multiple times a day
– Showing up with a gracious heart when I want to stay in bed and not care for one single person but myself
– Not comparing who does what with the kids, accepting my role and responsibilities and seeing them as a privilege
– Raising girls who love God and seek after Him
– Raising girls who love each other and others
– Raising girls who can eat something other than chicken nuggets, eventually tie their own shoes, and, you know, not wear pull-ups their entire lives maybe?

It doesn’t matter how I got here, or if I’m a marathon or a sprinter type of person, I’m in a marathon now. So by God’s grace I’m going to lace up those shoes, and run well by showing up again tomorrow. There are some little girls on the sidelines watching me in this race, so I can’t give up.

When my sister-in-law was in town last month, we went on a hike and when Shilo got tired we took turns carrying her on our backs. What a visual for the marathon of motherhood.
The culture of home

The culture of home

Home is where my husband and my daughters are. Shawn has been my home for almost 17 years. We lived in an apartment attached to someone’s house (where the kitchen sink was the size of a toaster), we lived in missionary training center housing where there was not even a toilet in the apartment (we had to walk to a bath house- somehow that was supposed to help prepare us for life and ministry overseas). We ‘upgraded’ to a little apartment at our next training center where there was a toilet (the cheering! The excitement!) but no shower. We had to bundle up in the winter just to walk to take a shower, hoping our wet hair wouldn’t freeze on the walk back. And of course, hoping the line wouldn’t be too long since we were sharing with a whole campus. We lived in my in-law’s basement (it was more of a garage with a bed in it) for 4ish months. We lived without running water for a year, and we’ve lived in a few ghettos. The kind of ghetto where your friends don’t feel comfortable parking their car outside your house. We lived above a boutique where you could buy a baguette, a cold drink from the fridge, eggs, seasoning, all from a friendly man from behind the counter. We lived where we could hear the ocean at night, and drums when there was something to celebrate. We lived where the Call to Prayer at the Mosque was our alarm clock and a reminder that I should probably start dinner (read: ask Shawn what we were having for dinner). We lived where no one understood our language or our ways, we lived where snow fell higher than our car, and where our apartment was furnished and quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing known to man. We lived here and we lived there. We had pot smoking neighbors and mice upon mice living among us. We always had decorations of some sort. Even if it was just a map of the world taped to the wall with family pictures taped around it. And now we’re in a new place and I’m thinking about home, and the various homes we’ve known, all over again. I’m thinking about what it means but more so, what it should mean, and what we want it to look like for these growing-by-the-minute girls of ours. They may not be amazed by the light fixtures, or how well insulated the house is, or how great the long driveway is. They many not be impressed by the bathtub like I am, or rave about the front door like I do. (I’m going to interrupt myself with a quick mini story: a friend came to see our new house last night and she was also raving about the front door. I said, “I know! I just can’t get over it. And she said, “Then don’t.” And it was the sweetest permission to just love this place, to keep being grateful and appreciate it all unapologetically. So please be anticipating weekly if not daily door posts on the ‘gram.)
I started thinking about what we want our home to look like, aside from the door and the tile and the way we arrange our furniture. I started thinking more about the culture of our home. In issue 27 of Bella Grace, there was an essay on home. Then there was a blank illustration of a house where you can write down or illustrate all the feelings you want to fill your home with. That really made me stop and think.
In the empty space of the illustrated home, here are the things we jotted down:
Laugh here! Cry here. Be you here.
Forgiven.
Accepted because we’re accepted in Jesus.
Heard.
Peace.
Welcome.
GRACE.
Chosen!
Dance parties.
Growth (but no rush).
“Always we begin again”.
LOVE.
Fun.
Friendship.
Happy memories.
Whatever home looks like here, or wherever our girls end up, I hope they know love and grace and I hope that at some point, they get to have a front door that they love.

What do you want to fill your home with?