Thirty.

I wrote this last week and intended to post it promptly. Then I was faced with a few things that caused me to be anxious and worry and I felt hypocritical. But I’m posting it now all with the understanding that I am still being sanctified and there is much progress to be had.

Thursday was my thirtieth birthday. I’m not having any sense of crisis or feeling old. In fact, I’m feeling amazed and thankful.

Ten years ago, when I turned 20 I was in the middle of a very dark time. I was very depressed and did not have a lot of hope for my future. I was away at college and did not have any really good friendships at the time. My family was far away and I don’t think any of us really understood what I was going through. By the grace of God, the darkness eventually lifted (I don’t have an answer for why or how) but I lived most of my early twenties in fear of it returning. For me depression felt like someone sitting on your chest all the time. I didn’t function well that way and I didn’t want to have to do life like that. In the past ten years, I’ve dealt with anxiety and worry but never the darkness of depression the same way I had in 2002/2003 and, for that, I am very grateful. I also know that God has used a lot of things in the past ten years to help me deal with my tendency to be anxious.

In a lot of ways, these birthdays that end in zeros can be scary. They are markers of what is coming to an end and what may be to come. I’ve been studying Genesis since September and Abraham’s example of faith has made it much easier to approach this birthday. Hope and thankfulness are much better lenses to view life through than anxiety and worry.

I could go on and on about all the amazing things God has done in my life in the last several years. In that time, I started dating D, got married and became a mom over and over and over again. I’ve changed jobs several times and seen the Lord provide for our family in ways I could not imagine. We have had loss and blessings and overwhelming peace from the only One who can provide it. I am thankful  for what I have learned in the past ten years and for what is to come.

Reading Material

I really do want to write. I can’t decide if I want people to read it or not. And I also have a hard time getting a coherent thought out without being interrupted by someone who needs to be hugged, fed or clothed. So, for now, I’ll share some of what I’ve been reading…

The Trouble with Dave Ramsey from Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl

We resisted what we believed in the pit of our stomachs to be true. We thought we could serve them both. We thought maybe we could be that one rich couple who has a lot of money so that they can give more away. We wanted a piece of the blessing of God’s promise, but we hoped it could be without sacrifice. We didn’t want the “living like no one else” to be for nothing.

Six things adoption has taught me by Shaun Groves at Simple Mom

In 2007, I visited an Ethiopian orphanage, trying not to make eye contact with any of the little ones around me in need of a father. I’ve always found avoidance to be the surest way to never feel bad about saying “no.” My brother-in-law, who was adopting from Ethiopia, was there with me. “Maybe we’ve made it too complicated,” he said. (I knew by “we” he meant “me.”) “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

From By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity by Wendy Horger Alsup

I was taken back a bit when I first read the definition of the Greek term translated humility. It means a deep sense of your littleness, especially your moral littleness. Unlike our culture’s watered down version of this term, humility does not mean that you are simply nice, polite, or diplomatic. It means that you have a correct understanding of your salvation as Paul outlined in Ephesians 2. You understand that you were dead in your sins, you were born a child deserving of God’s judgement, and God saved you by his grace and not by your own works. You understand your moral littleness. Then you respond to others in light of this understanding. A humble person does not stand in judgment against others from a point of righteous indignation. You and I have completely missed the entire message of Ephesian 1 and 2 if we think we have any moral high ground over anyone else. This is the core of the gospel.

And, lastly, this verse has shown up to me through various people and places over and over in the last month.

I have told you these things, so that in me you you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV)

My 3 Favorite Blogs (Right Now)

I know I haven’t written a post in a while. But I have been reading other blogs. Here are my three favorites reads right now (they are all over the map topic-wise).

1. House Tweaking: The Millers are fixing up a mid-century ranch after downsizing. They have two sons and just had a little girl (I might be a bit biased). I love Dana’s style and all the information they share. I love seeing their new house come together. 

2. Mama Pop: Snarky, sarcastic coverage of pop-culture written by parents. I have a little dream of writing for this blog someday. 

3. Practical Theology for Women: I’m honestly not adding this in just so you won’t judge me for loving the pop-culture blog so much. Wendy Horger Alsup writes this blog (titled the same as her book). She says the blog is a “lecture to herself” but I am so glad I get to listen in. When I see a new post in my reader, I know I have to save it for when I can really pay attention because there is so much to take in.

Reading Material

I LOVE this post from Shaun Groves on God, poverty and the government. At one point in my life, I was very interested in politics and now I am very cynical and get all my political information from Comedy Central. Shaun’s post is so well-balanced and has lots and lots of links and resources.

Megan from Millions of Miles re-posted this from last year: Do you have room?

“Wait!” I’d like to think I would scream, “I have room! Come and let Jesus be born here!” But if Mary and Joseph had taken me up on that offer, would I have really done it? Or would I have said, “Well… actually, it’s kinda cramped in here. And we have our routine and you might get in the way of that a little. Oh, and by the way- we all snore. You know, come to think of it, we’re really pretty comfortable here just as we are. Are you sure you want to stay here? We don’t have a lot of money and our TV is very small. If you went down the street, they’d probably let you stay there and their house is way bigger and they have a lot of money. You might really be more comfortable somewhere else. I’ll tell you what- here. Here’s a few dollars. Good luck. I really do think someone else could accommodate you better. And if they can’t, well… I’m just sorry. It’s just not a good time for me. You understand, right?”

Meanwhile, Jesus gets born in a barn…

And meanwhile, millions of children all over the world go without families because we tell ourselves the very same excuses…

And, lastly, this one is just pretty. Our house is about 1,000 square feet (not including a full basement & garage). I am pretty content with this size of a house but it is a challenge to organize and figure out what goes where. I always love seeing examples of small, simple living done beautifully and this house tour from Apartment Therapy was a perfect example.

photos from apartment therapy

You can see more of this house at the family’s blog: {aka}|design

Francis Chan on Marriage

I posted about these messages from Francis & Lisa Chan a long time ago but then a friend of mine recently linked to Francis Chan’s message “Don’t Focus on the Family” (love the title) and these popped up on YouTube.

Part 1

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihRmM0aVADU&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLAA767529E3BBBF13]

Part 2

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gankzqrIipQ&feature=BFa&list=PLAA767529E3BBBF13&lf=results_main]

Part 3

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3YNawuuizM&feature=BFa&list=PLAA767529E3BBBF13&lf=results_main]

I need to listen to all three messages again (and probably at least once a year wouldn’t hurt). It is worth three hours of your time.

Reading Material

Just in case you were looking for something to read.

A New Normal from Wendy at Practical Theology for Women

Our need for God is better highlighted in hard circumstances. When life is good, I inevitably gloss over my need for Him. But His unchanging character is the only anchor for my soul when life gets messy.

How many times do I need to link to this blog to encourage you to add it to your reader?

Hope from Heather at The Chaseys….

I’ve learned that this is a reality for a lot of women. But as someone who hasn’t had to go through the pain myself, it’s been hard to relate to and grieve alongside women who I care deeply about. A friend referred me to this post written by Molly Piper and I decided that it was a great place to start–I needed to educate myself. After some research, I purchased Hannah’s Hope. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I do know that my heart has been changed by this book and I hope my actions and words are more sensitive to those who are hurting.

A whole series on this project: Modern Wood Fence from My Mid-Century Modern Life

I am just in love with this outdoor room and my friend and her husband created. I’ve showed it to D and we have a hard time imagining how this might work in our yard but I can dream, right?

For the Orphan: Life Upside Down from the For the City blog…

“You know what? The biggest thing is to not be afraid to pray big prayers,” Cara says, glancing at the baby in her arms and nodding her head toward his brother. “These boys are worth it. Their mom is worth it. And God is completely able.”

(That one made me cry a little).

Motherhood

Wendy Hoger Alsup is just full of wisdom…

Motherhood is not the greatest good for the Christian woman. Whether you are a mom or not, don’t get caught up in sentimentalism that sets it up as some saintly role. The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ.

Please read the rest of her post. Sometimes in Christianity, we have failed and have set up motherhood and family as idols. They are good things but they are not the ultimate things.

There are women – with and without children – in my life who model compassion, mercy, patience, grace, kindness and selflessness. All characteristics that a mother is supposed to have and all ones at which I fail at all the time. Today, I am thankful for my mother and my mother-in-law and they great example they are to me. Today is a reminder for me as well that my children are a blessing which is something I need to remember on a daily basis when I lose my patience with them or want to complain about their behavior.

This morning I woke up thinking of our boys’ first mom and how horrible today must be for her. Not only is it  Mother’s Day but it is her youngest son’s fourth birthday today. I know very little about her but I know for sure that she has lived a hard life. I prayed for her today, asking that God would put someone in her path to encourage her and that she may feel His peace.

God has certainly given me an interesting path to motherhood and I’m daily asking that He helps me not take these blessings for granted. (And, right now, I need to go hang up a birthday banner).

Mental Snapshots

Remember Jim & Pam’s wedding episode where they take mental snapshots throughout the day? Well, I find myself doing that a lot lately.

Friday night about seventy people from our church gathered to assemble HOPE gift bags that we are distributing to 7,000 houses this month. Kids were welcome to join the “packing party” and it was a great opportunity to teach our boys about sharing our faith. After talking to them a bit, D2 said, “So, we want everyone to know about Jesus.” Exactly, buddy.

The boys’ behavior that day had not been awesome, especially A. I was a bit nervous about bringing them especially since it was right before bedtime and A is prone to evening meltdowns. Fortunately, we have some wonderful friends who let the boys “work” with them as they assembled bags.

Our friend’s Mike & Kelly have two boys (ages 11 & 10) and D2 & A LOVE them. Ryan and Josh are their heroes. Ryan was nice enough to let D2 tag along with him throughout the night. They did some jobs together, got water for volunteers and even assembled some bags.

At one point, I asked D2 if he wanted a new job and he said, “I just want to be with Ryan.” We see a whole new side of him when he is with older kids. So often he is the “boss” since he is the oldest child. It is nice to see him looking up to someone else. (We made sure to slip Ryan a $5 for being such a good sport).

Because I’m “that mom” I was checking on them every few minutes and I called out to D2, “You doing okay?” He looked at me with this huge smile on his face and gave me a thumbs up. He seemed so proud of himself for being able to work alongside the big kid. In my mind, I was thinking, “God, help me keep that in my memory forever.”  They are just growing up so quickly and it is so easy to forget these sweet  moments.

February Memory Verse(s) #1

This is a set of verses but I’m determined to get the Beatitudes down this year.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
(Matthew 5:3-6 ESV)

Saturday Seven

1. I do have my first memory verse done. I made a little song for it and was able to memorize it quite easily. Here is my next one:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called Children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1, ESV)

2. Both D and I related to this article from Paul Tripp this week. I keep feeling the need to re-read it.

The task is way bigger than our ability us as parents, but we are not our children’s messiah, and we are not left to the resources of our own character, wisdom, and strength.

3. The main reason why I need to be reminded of this article often is because we have some boundary pushing going on here. I’m not sure if it is just that the boys are more comfortable or what exactly is going on. My guess is they are acting their age. The most recent frustration is that simple instructions (like “Put on your coat”) are being met with “Why?” or “No.” (both said with a hint of attitude) or just a flat our refusal to follow instructions. As you can imagine, this is getting pretty exhausting and I spend a lot of time feeling like the bad guy. I keep talking to them about respect but I’m not sure I’m explaining it well. Any thoughts? Really, I’m open to suggestions.

4. And as much work as they are, they are just ever so cute and fun…

What could be more fun than a laundry basket & a blanket? Well, let me tell you. Having your mom and dad either carry or push you around in a laundry basket is pure delight. There are literally hundreds of toys in this house. This activity occupied them for about forty-five minutes. And I’m counting it as a workout.

5. Remember my whole goal of one-new-recipe a week. Well, this week I marinated chicken is something I had not used before. And that is going to have to count. I do have a roast planned for this week that I have not tried before though.

6. We are waiting on pins and needles for Baby Slagel to arrive. I realize that I didn’t share any of the photos here from the shower we threw for him and his momma back in November (it was the same day we met the boys for the first time). Here are just a few…

7. In talking with Marcia about the diaper bag she picked up for her little man, I told her I needed a bigger bag to tote around matchbox cars, hand sanitizer, quick activities and a plethora of snacks. Here are a few from Etsy that might just work…

(found here, here & here)