Just a photo gallery of our Thanksgiving holiday. We drove 10 1/2 hours north to see my family, and I am thoroughly convinced that the trip gets harder every year.
Besides eating the customary fare, we stopped at an incredible Dinosaur Park in Connecticut, that showcases an actual slab of dinosaur footprints. There was a kids area, in which they could make bookmarks with embossed dinosaur tracks, pick a 15 or 30 min movie to watch, and learn more about the area's dinosaur finds. We all really enjoyed ourselves.
We played Apples to Apples, which we initially learned to play while in Nicaragua.
I made pecan tassies and am trying to teach myself control in the eating of them (they are absolutely to die for!!!)
I bought 2 pairs of black shoes, which takes the total of shoes I have up to 4 pairs.
AND I enjoyed some girl time with my best friend, a rare thing these days. We counted back to the last time we had gone out by ourselves, and it has been 8 years. 8 YEARS. Yes, it was time. We ate at Panera Bread, went shopping, and talked about...pretty much everything. It was so relaxing and fun.
We also celebrated Zach's first birthday with my family here...hard to believe he will be 7 already!
The time went by way too fast, but as I was tempted to complain about all the laundry I have to catch up on, I thought of all the people around the world who only have 1 or 2 pairs of shirts, or pants. And then I realized how blessed I am, that I have several loads of laundry to wash. And that we have a vehicle. And that we can afford to buy gas to make the trip north. We don't skip meals because we don't have the money. Fasting is optional.
Yes, we were so thankful, for so many people and things, this Thanksgiving.
I love music. I was in jazz band and marching band in high school, and have played the piano since I was 4 yrs old. Music touches a part of my soul that only God can see. Music brings me close to him faster than anything else. and since coming back, I've really taken advantage of listening to the Christian radio stations and enjoyed getting plugged back into some good Christian music.
The one below is one of my recent favorites. Titled Hold on, by Toby Mac. I'm going to see if I can figure out how to plug it on the right here so you can listen to it.
Wake up to the morning light wipe away the lonely nights let a brand new day wash over you, Wanna see you smile again show some love to your crazy friends wipe your tears away those days are through
If you move just a little bit closer you can put your head on my shoulder Yeah, yeah
[Chorus:] So baby hold on just another day or two I can see the clouds are moving faster now and the sun is breaking through If you can hold on, to the one that's holding you there is nothing that can stop this crazy love from breaking through
We're breaking through We're breaking through
Wake up to the morning sun thank the Lord for the things He's done lift your eyes up to the hope that's ever true Wanna see you smiling girl you're a light in this jaded world wipe away those tears this one's for you [ Hold On mp3 on http://musicjuzz.blogspot.com ]
Come on, move a little bit closer, you can put your head on my shoulder Yeah, yeah
And the stars are up there shining for you oh, the Father does adore you His love will never change And you and I we were born to follow the hope that will lead us to tomorrow and no one can take it away
So baby hold on just another day or two I can see the clouds are moving faster now and the sun is breaking through If you could hold on to the one that's holding you there is nothing that can stop this crazy, crazy love from breaking [x2]
You see the clouds are moving faster now the clouds are moving faster
You see the clouds are moving faster now And the sun is breaking through
This is one of the things I love about the States. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to support people living in poverty. Honestly, it can feel overwhelming at times. In Nicaragua, it sometimes felt overwhelming living and being surrounded by poverty; here, there are so many organizations, and people that want your money for a good cause (now that I think about it, I guess there isn't much difference between the two groups, only that the people here are dressed so much nicer and usually eat 3 meals a day :)
Since we decided to stay a bit longer than originally planned, we've been on the hunt. The look out. Keeping our eyes open and put out some feelers.
And it amazes me that after 10 years of marriage, two people can see things so...differently.
Somehow I thought after all these years we would merge together and think alike and basically never disagree on anything again (note the dripping sarcasm here). But seriously, I was surprised at how our expectations and wants differed. Time to pull out the serious communication tools!
Shortly after starting the search, a possibility opened up, but I was hesitant. It isn't located near the city. It's actually in the middle of nowhere. Just surrounded by farms. And I really wanted to live in the city. I mean, really bad. But after several weeks of phone calls, reading the newspaper, writing emails and seeing houses, it has become clear that this is not what God had in mind. And I started to realize that if we lived in the city, that I probably would not rest as much as I need to. There are so many amazing and wonderful ministries in the city. Art galleries, coffee shops, First Friday and holiday traffic. Yes, it's busyness to the max. And exactly what I do not need right now.
So at this point, we've decided to move to some temporary housing while the other house gets a few fixings. This temporary housing is made possible by a generous family who ministers to missionaries on furlough by offering a fully furnished basement apartment. (pssssttt, if you are looking for a ministry to get involved in and have a large basement, you might consider turning it into short-term housing, there is a great need for this!)
We're hoping to be "permanently" moved into the house in the middle of nowhere by Christmas. (that's what I'm calling it now, the house-in-the-middle-of-nowhere).
So be praying for us as we adjust to yet another move, and yet another move. Fortunately for us, the kids think of this as a great adventure (they were asking tonight, oohhh we get to sleep in a new house tonight?!! with eyes popping out of their heads and megawatt smiles)
Yes, it's back! After much praise for Zach's creative abilities, I decided to start posting his artwork again. He had stopped for a bit, in the midst of all the traveling and moving around, but is back in rare form, creating several masterpieces a day.
And it looks like he may have an apprentice. No, not Nathaniel. I doubt he would ever miss a crayon or marker. No, the littlest one in the brood shows quite an interest in pens, pencils, crayons, paints, markers, anything that leaves a mark.
You'll notice the picture on the bottom is actually a list of rules that he copied from a Berenstain Bears book, about manners. Any breach in the rules results in immediate discipline, and the list on the right reveals the punishment. (notice the rules were for Daddy, Mommy and Than. When I asked him why his name wasn't on there, he said it was because he already knows all the rules. He doesn't need reminders. ah, yes.)
Now, you have to understand Zach. He is a rules boy. He loves rules. He sees the world in black and white, for every action there is a reaction, and heaven help you if you break a rule while playing a board game with him. He knows them all. He would make a good lawyer, if he can someday learn to control that temper.
I really need to invent some kind of machine that automatically downloads all the blogs in my head, onto this website. If I had a machine like that, I would probably have at least 5 blogs a day on here. Literally.
Especially lately. There has been so much going on. Thoughts swirl around my head like a Category 5 hurricane and it's been hard just sorting it all out.
But let's start with the photos; they are easy to explain.
Grandma holding my 4 month old nephew.
Some of my latest cake decorating antics. I finished the first course of the cake decorating basics, and started the second course...flowers. Below are my first ever flowers, made from a mix of gum paste and fondant. Pretty, aren't they? The pansies are cute, but a LOT of work. I definitely won't be making a lot of those anytime in the near future.
Here is my sister-in-law Laura, celebrating her 30th birthday with my cake finale. It was a strawberry cake with real strawberry icing, some of which still sits in the fridge (so if you have a craving for strawberry icing, c'mon over).
The other big news is that another sister-in-law had her baby a few weeks ago. Emmanuel Shepherd was born around 32 weeks, and is doing as well as can be expected for his age. It was a bit unexpected, and the feelings it has stirred up in both Steve and I was also unexpected.
Feelings that we thought were dealt with long ago have found their way back into our hearts and minds, making this episode a bit tiring for us, emotionally. It's hard to explain, because I hardly understand it myself. But who can understand grief? It's like a tornado that suddenly and dangerously upsets emotions and thoughts, overturning this and destroying that, before finally leaving a mass of torrential confusion and sorrow in it's wake.
As far as our future, whew! When we first came back to the US, our original return date, to Nicaragua, was mid-October. In August we spent 28 days driving over 5000 miles, and when mid-September rolled around, we started to realize how tired we were, and how quickly one more month would fly by us, leaving us little time for rest. So we picked Jan/Feb for our new "return to nicaragua" goal.
As we enter the holiday season and look back more clearly on these past 5 years, it feels as though we are seeing things with a more defined perspective and part of that is seeing how deeply exhausted we are, on every level: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical.
I attended a Lancaster Women's Conference last weekend. The topic was on having safe and healthy boundaries, in both personal and professional walks. The speaker talked about how not having healthy boundaries, especially in ministry, can often lead to burnout. When she listed several symptoms of burnout, I realized that I had them all. Ouch.
It's hard to admit our weakness. Our human nature, pride and independence, craves to stand up and shout, No! I can do this! Rest is for the weak and faint of heart! But we have felt God speaking to us, through His word, through missionary and pastor friends, and through our own spirits, in regards to our great need for rest.
A few days ago I was recounting to a new friend, a ministry leader, about the major events we have experienced these past 5 yrs.
- the loss of several children - heart surgery - 2 high-risk pregnancies - sold house and moved overseas - job change for Steve and new job for me - started homeschooling - returned to the States
She looked at me incredulously and asked, in all seriousness, How did your marriage ever survive all that???
Yeah. Good question. All I can say is, His grace is sufficient for thee.
It's been hard, no doubt about it. We're tired, no, exhausted, and we have experienced a number of traumatic and life-changing events in a relatively short amount of time.
It's hard to hear God when you are busy, running from this event to that, taking care of this person and that person. But this month we finally slowed down enough to hear Him. God has gently, and firmly, talked to us of our weary and battered souls. We clearly feel God telling us, this is a season of rest. There will be time to return to Nicaragua and pursue our dream, our ministry. But now is not the time. We want to be healthy, and whole, when we return. We don't want to return to Nicaragua and have to leave because we are burned out, because we didn't take the time to rest up.
So....what does all that mean? It means we don't know exactly when we will be returning to Nicaragua. It means that we will be moving out of our in-laws farmhouse and looking to lease a place for at least a year. It means that we will be very vigilant, and intentional, about our time, and our recreational activities. It means we will not be involving ourselves in a lot of busyness, and ministry activities, as much as we would like to.
We hope, and pray, that next year at this time, we will be ready to return to Nicaragua. But only God knows when the timing will be right.
I know this may be hard to understand, and it will be easy for some to judge us, especially in a culture where hard work and busyness are highly prized. But please, don't judge us. Because you haven't been where we've been. You haven't lived our life. And every family is different, with unique personalities, backgrounds, experiences. Your family may need rest, as well, or it may need other things. We hope that you can make your family's needs a priority, and do what it takes to make that happen. Right now, this is what our family needs.
Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we sad? Yes.
But we have peace.
That peace tells us we are on the right road. This was a fellow missionary's piece of advice as we prepared to leave Nicaragua, Follow the road of peace.
I guess you could also title this, Kids say the funniest things sometimes, Part 2.
Oh yes, our kids whine, complain and fight (I know, we have the only ones that do this), but they also make sweet and incredibly discerning statements at times.
We received a Kmart toy catalog the other day (still not sure how we got on this list), and Zach has made this his new favorite "reading" material. He looks at it in the morning before heading to school, he peruses it during his quiet time, and then quickly reviews it once more before closing his eyes at night.
The holidays are rapidly approaching, as all the stores and advertisements are quick to remind us. I've been thinking about how we're going to handle the holidays here, but that's for another blog.
While looking at the magazine yesterday, he came upon the "girl" section, and looking at me, said matter-of-factly, I think we should go to Nicaragua and get a girl who has no mommy or daddy, and have her live with us.
I didn't know what to say at first, but quickly recovered and replied, Sounds like a good idea to me. He was adamant that it should be a girl. He was so disappointed when we announced Sebastian was a boy. When we told him, he just looked at us and said, well, maybe the next one will be a girl. Perhaps. But we explained that the next child wouldn't come from mommy's belly, but from another place, where kids go when they don't have mommies and daddies. It appears he has been listening. And thinking about it all.
We are, and have been, thinking about adoption. Still. Been thinking about it for years, wondering, waiting for the "right" time.
The process is arduous, especially so for Nicaragua adoptions. They don't charge for adoptions, which make them relatively cheap considering international adoptions, but can take years. Nicaragua is very thorough and does not give up her orphans quickly, or without much forethought.
The biggest reason we haven't started the adoption process is that the sheer amount of documentation to even start is so intimidating. Pacitos, we tell ourselves. Baby steps.