Nothing is Yet in Its True Form

Standard

Today a symphony of thoughts exploded in my mind. I love it when God places a little thought here, and something to read here, and then something to listen to over here……with the purpose of having the fruits of each event join together into a beautiful moment of understanding the Maker better.

This week, I’ve been happily soaking in the colors of fall. Each year, I appreciate fall more. I love trees ablaze with colors. I love the crackle of leaves and the sound of acorns bouncing off my roof;  I delight in the sound of the wind whistling through newly bare branches, and smell of harvest all around me.

IMG_0074

This week, I’ve also been studying in I Corinthians with my small group at church. We’ve been in chapter 6, talking about how the Lord is for the body and the body for the Lord. About how we are not our own, we were bought at a price. During my study, I listened to a sermon by John Piper about this chapter, and He made the comment that our bodies are for eternity. I had never really thought that my “perfected body” in heaven would in any way resemble this body I have now.  (Ahem, maybe I was thinking more “super-model.”) But, when Jesus died and was resurrected, He didn’t return in an entirely different body—no, rather his friends and disciples recognized Him. They knew it was Jesus because He looked like Jesus. And the glorious thing is, He plans to do the same with our bodies:

God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by His power.      

I Corinthians 6:14

Now, this could be a discouraging piece of information if your body isn’t serving you well here on earth. If your body is broken and bruised. If your body has been abused, hated, or a source of grief. If it has deteriorated and disabled you from truly living. If your body is too big or too small, too old, too lumpy, too weak, too stressed, too sore. But, praise God, when we are raised up, we will be in our perfected bodies….recognizable, but a mere glimpse of the imperfection our flesh endured in this life.

There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.          

I Corinthians 15:40-57

IMG_0091

This week, I’ve also been studying trees with the children. Somehow, I have gone 31 years without ever learning (or maybe just not remembering) the following tree fact:

Green is NOT the true color of a tree’s leaves. Their leaves look green because of the sugary substance, chlorophyll. When fall comes and trees begin to prepare for winter, they require less chlorophyll, and it slowly drains from their leaves. This is when the true colors of the leaves reveal themselves.

IMG_0095 IMG_0111

So as I drove down the road this afternoon, these three thoughts collided, and for a moment gave me a better understanding of this life. As I drove through a small valley surrounded by fall leaves bursting with fiery reds and yellows and oranges, I thought of how we, too, are like the fall leaves. Now, we are green, and we think we are really living. But, little do we know, that when we are raised with Christ, only then will our true colors be shown, our perfected bodies revealed, and only then will we understand what it is to truly live. One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis in which he says:

“Nothing is yet in its true form.”

IMG_0104

We are not yet in our true form.  Creation is not yet in its true form.  We can’t understand or fathom what that will be, but one day, it will be made known, and we will see that we have only just begun to live.

IMG_0106

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  

I Corinthians 13:12

IMG_0085

My Very Own Boxcar Children

Standard

I’ve always wanted to raise readers…  I dream of having bookworms.  There is no better way (in my opinion) to be a life-long learner than to devour books.  I always enjoyed reading, but I definitely had to grow into my love of reading.  Lately I’ve discovered, that the best way to raise readers is to always have books readily available, and to engage with them in the books.  Addy is well on her way to being able to read by herself, but most chapter books would be too frustrating for her right now.  For the past 9 months, Andy and I have begun to read  larger books to them.  So far, the kids have enjoyed books like: Charlotte’s Web, Wind and the Willows, The Mouse and the Motorcyle, Runaway Ralph, The Magic Tree House Book #1, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, and now…..The Boxcar Children.

Each of these books have left my kiddos begging for more……a cliff hanger at the end of a chapter can result in disastrous meltdowns…..and that kind of makes me happy.  As we are slowly making our way through the first book in the Boxcar Children, I’ve discovered a new sense of exploration with my kiddos.  In the afternoons, they have asked to go outside, at which point they disappear.  After a few afternoons of this, I realized they had been working on something around the barn.  Once this realization was made, it became clear that my children have become the Boxcar children.  They now believe they are orphaned siblings–on their own and responsible for creating shelter, food,safety,  and money to survive.

This is the hideout I stumbled across today when reigning them in:

 

Their very own “boxcar.”  This houses their coats, backpacks, and Abe’s homemade laptop.

IMG_3098[1]IMG_3108[1]

They also have a secret loft in their boxcar, which they have turned into beds.  They didn’t have access to pine needles like Jessie, Henry, Violet, and Benny, so hay was the next best thing.

IMG_3093[1]

Every good hideout is complete with booby-traps….

IMG_3088[1]Preview

Newly-orphaned children get hungry, and are apparently  forced to dig for small onions to make a stew with.  Good thing they have a “Watch” to keep guard as they leave the hideout!

                      IMG_3110[1]             IMG_3089[1]

 

This last one isn’t necessarily a stretch for normal life….

IMG_3111[1]

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air is softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.

- Elizabeth Lawrence

 

Paperwork and Other Life

Standard

I’ve been having a hard time finding time to write lately. Life seems to have accelerated the last few weeks, and I can’t seem to make it stop spinning.  We’ve made some wonderful memories, but it’s been a bit of a blur.

ADOPTION:

A few weeks ago, we began the process of updating all of our homestudy paperwork for the first time.  This paperwork has to be updated every year…..things like home visits, doctor’s appointments, and a lot of signatures.  We are just about done with the paperwork, at which point we will submit it to our homestudy agency for review, they will send it to the state, who should renew our foster/adopt certificate.  Then we will take the approved paperwork, mail it to the USIS office, and they will schedule another appointment (in St. Louis) for us to get fingerprinted for immigration again.  Then, once they approve us again, we will send our approval to AGCI who will submit it to Bulgaria….hopefully all before we go past our deadline, or we will get our file pulled and stuck on the bottom. Yikes!  Room for some anxiety, but we’ve started early and should (fingers crossed) not have to worry about it.

IMG_2919[1]

FRIENDS:

After a failed camping trip in the spring with our friends, we planned months in advance for a fall camping trip.  We’d had it on the calendar since the summer, and all the kids were excited.  So, even though the weekend arrived with severe weather warnings and non-stop rain forecasted, we decided we’d rather be stuck in a camper playing board games in the rain than at our homes cleaning all weekend.  So, we headed to the lake, and lo-and-behold, aside from some drizzle and cool weather, it was a great fall weekend.  We had such fun watching the kids play at the playground, riding on the golf cart, playing cards, roasting smores and visiting the LBL Nature Station to see Smoky.

IMG_3026[1]

IMG_3042[1]

Heading home from the lake, we decided to take the kids to Cave-in-Rock, IL.  Andy and I hadn’t been since we were little kids, so we went on a grand adventure exploring the cave, and then picnicked over the Ohio River.

IMG_3055[1]IMG_3068[1]

FAMILY:

I’ve mentioned my Grandpa’s battle with Alzheimer’s here before.  This month, my family teamed together for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  What started out as a fun family moment of uniting together, ended up being really emotional for me.  I found myself crying at the most bizarre times during the walk.  I think it’s easier to not think about hard things like this, and when I let me guard down, the flood gates open.  My cousin formed our team–Grandpa’s Memories.  We had t-shirts made, and even just the silly little stick people on the shirt got me all choked up!  It felt so great to join together for this cause.

IMG_2993[1] IMG_2991[1]

FAITH:

This past week, we had the awesome opportunity to have our friends, Ryan and Laura, over for dinner.  Laura and I were next door neighbors in college, and were both English Education majors.  She and her husband were called to the mission field 4 years ago, and have just come home for a few months before returning to Asia Pacific for another term with New Tribes.  We have been partnering with them the last few years, and it has been a real blessing.  It was such a neat day as the kids and I studied about were they serve as part of our school lesson, and spent the morning praying for them and the people they are ministering to.  The kids had some really interesting questions for them…..most of Abe’s questions revolved around food (specifically spaghetti) and Addy wanted to know about more practical things like the language and daily life.  While the kids spent the evening making pictures for them, we had a great time of visiting and hearing them share what God is doing in that region.  I tried to get some new pictures for their ministry needs, but the rain prevailed, and I didn’t get to take all the “fall” shots I had in mind!  It was a blessing to see them and be encouraged by their faith.

IMG_0199

FALL FUN:

We’ve been trying to enjoy the outdoors before it gets too cold to do so.  Last weekend, we went for a walk “off the beaten path.” We had a contest to find the most beautiful fall leaf, and Andy spent the walk trying to find the perfect walking stick for each kid.  So thankful we live on this quiet, country road…..it never gets old to me.

IMG_3004[1]

IMG_3002[1]

This world never stops spinning, and at times it spins faster than others, but sometimes I need to just take a step back and remind myself to live in the moment and slow things down long enough to enjoy them.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Standard

We have the sweetest AGCI caseworker ever.  Every time I talk to her, I feel like she is my own person cheerleader in adoption.  This journey can be long and drawn out, and every once in a while you need someone in your corner saying, “You can do this…it’s going to be awesome….God had GREAT things in store for you and your child!  Hang in there!”  So…..this post is per her request.  Hoping she can use it to make other  AGCI families smile, and that maybe other families who are waiting or already have children at home, can join us in learning this simple, fun song in Bulgarian.  So, without further ado….here is “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” by my kiddos.

 

 

 

For those wanting to learn–here’s the way each word sounds:

Head- Glava

Shoulders- Ramena

Knees- Kolena

Toes- Prusti Na Kra Kata

Eyes- Ochi

Ears- Ooshi

Mouth- Usta

Nose- Nos

We aren’t the best singers, but we have fun….and as silly as this little song is, we pray it might be a comfort to the child we bring home…to hear familiar sounds in a new and unfamiliar environment!

A Normal Week With Children

Standard

Things that should not be “normal” suddenly are when you parenting more than one toddler or child.  Here’s a running list of “normal” things in my life this week…don’t judge, you know you have “normal” kids too!

  1. Apple cores in the couch
  2. Toothpaste all over the counter
  3. A pee-puddle on the front step…twice.
  4. Red Sharpie on the walls
  5. Red Sharpie on small feet
  6. Red Sharpie on the cream carpet
  7. (Red Sharpie  on  _____fill in the blank____)
  8. “Mom, today I sucked on a worm.”  Why? And, gag.
  9. 17 shoes in the yard
  10. The “wrong” answers to the caseworker’s discipline questions during the homestudy update. (I hope she knows this is “normal.”)
  11. My missing cell phone buried in the dirt under the swing set. Hmmm????
  12. A Ziplock bag filled with water and apple seeds
  13. A new bouquet of yellow mum branches….yes, every branch from my new yellow mum.
  14. A two-year-old- sitting on the counter with a gallon bag of parade candy at 6:40 AM
  15. A chicken with a helmet on.  Okay, really that was me and Andy, not the kids.  But, to our defense, it wouldn’t have been “normal” without kids involved.
  16. 16 shoes in the van.
  17. An exciting discovery of milk curd in a week old sippy cup.  You know you’ve been there.
  18. A masterpiece –a mountain drawn on computer paper–then glued…..GLUED….to the wall.
  19. A bouquet of beautiful sneeze-worthy weeds gracing my kitchen table.
  20. No shoes in closets. ???

normal-cartoon

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Standard

Yesterday was the worst day of homeschooling we have experienced up to this point.  If it could go wrong, it did.  If it could be met with distraction, unwillingness, or whining– it was.  Cora was feeling especially needy, and as a result acted out in every way possible. (Think nail polish on the floor and on her head and toothpaste spread all over the bathroom, and that’s a start.) By 9:30 I had text my dearest friend and asked her to say a prayer for me……that kind of bad day.  At 10:30, I had to throw my arms up and say, “It’s not working right now. We’ll try again later.”  We ate lunch and had some “recess,” and we did recover some ground during Cora’s nap (bless her, she just doesn’t always enjoy Sissy and Bubby’s school time).  Homeschooling is a decision we made based on convictions and exciting opportunities, and even at it’s worse I don’t ever have second thoughts, but man, sometimes it is so hard.  Just. Hard.

Fast forward to today (ah, the promise of joy in the morning!)–we had barely finished breakfast and my phone rang.  It was my momma, and she wanted to know if she and my dad could come “borrow” Cora for the day while we did school.  A few things to insert here:

  1. I do not consider Cora the “problem” with our school days.  She is an active participant, but no matter what ANY other homeschool blog tells you–sometimes 2-year-olds just don’t want to do puzzles, color, “sensory boxes,” or play with toys.  Sometimes, they just want YOU to play with THEM.  She is not a problem, but at times, it does make it hard to have school.  I’m the first to admit that this can be a “con” of homeschooling, but not a end-all.
  2. Given the choice, I would assume my parents probably would not have chosen homeschooling as their top educational choice for their grandkids.  And yet, they have never alluded to that idea at all.  In fact ALL of the grandparents have been nothing but supportive in this decision.  Whether it is a late night text of encouragement from Andy’s mom or offers to watch the little ones from Granny, or watching my dad explore his pasture with the kids enhancing their “tree” study, we have felt so blessed to have their love in this area.

So, Cora got to spend a fun day with grandparents, and we got to spend an awesome day learning, reading and exploring.  Today might have been the BEST day of school we’ve had so far!  Today reminded me of all the things I LOVE about teaching my children.

We are studying trees in science.  We have been studying the nuts, seeds, fruits, pods of every tree we can find.  We have gone hiking and exploring.  We have researched questions and found the answers.  I adore the fact that we can read a science lesson about trees and then go outside and get hands on experience.  The kids can hold the pine cones and gather acorns lying on the ground.  They can match a walnut leaf to a walnut and know they come from the same tree. I love that the science book isn’t where they are getting the majority of their information, but they are hands-on figuring it out on their own…and having fun doing it!  Right now, we are studying the tree’s bark and learning about the differences in each tree.  We are learning to count the rings of a tree stump to learn it’s age.  We are exploring rotting tree roots to see what happens when they decompose.  It’s amazing.

IMG_0944

Today we discovered red berries on our dogwood tree!

IMG_0960

Learning about moss and bark

IMG_0963

Examining our only apple in the orchard!

And the best part?  One learning adventure often leads to another.  We came across this crazy caterpillar today, stopped what we were doing and ran for the magnifying glasses to check him out.  It is INCREDIBLE the creativity of the Creator!

IMG_0931

After some research we learned that this spiky guy is the White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar. We learned that his hair will cause an allergic reaction, and he will cocoon in a tree and emerge as a (pretty ugly) caterpillar 2 weeks later.

IMG_0938

Notice the questions running through her mind.

IMG_0935

After our observing and researching, the kids asked if they could go get their sketch books, and try to draw this creature.  They spread out a rug next to my tire, curled up with their new kitten, and colored for 30 minutes, carefully examining the caterpillar’s every feature.

IMG_0972

IMG_0948

After school, they started acting very suspicious and working together on something .  As I finished cooking supper, they ran into the kitchen and yelled, “Surprise!”  Ah, again with the gifts from my children.  So precious.

1936959_156184019726_8120478_n

A bundle of “wildflowers,” 2 necklaces, and beautiful drawings. Be still my heart.

IMG_0981

“For giving love, I love Mommy.” After the struggles yesterday, I cherished the “forgiving love” too.

This homeschool journey has it’s share of twists and turns.  We win some, we lose some….but it is beautiful.  In the blink of an eye, Cora will be right there with us on grand adventures, and we will learn amazing things, and no doubt, they will have a thing or two to teach me too!

IMG_0983

Gifts From My Children

Standard

My children aren’t perfect.  I know– you’re shocked.  But I can assure, they bicker and disobey and act hatefully and throw massive fits.  Despite the fact they are “normal” (I use the term loosely!) kids, they teach me abundantly about the Lord.  Every. Single. Day.  Lately, they have reminded me of the Lord’s gifts.

I like to give gifts.  Anytime a birthday or Christmas approaches, I painstakingly rack my brain for that “perfect” gift idea.  And I do love watching people receive the gifts, anticipating that they will somehow be blessed by them.  However, this is nothing in comparison to the way my children give gifts.  They don’t wait until a holiday to bless others with their gifts.  At times, it seems they spend every moment (before/after school and not sleeping) making gifts to bless the hearts of others.  I can no longer count the times Andy and I have come to bed to find a little envelope inscribed with “MOM” or “DAD” laying on our pillow.  At least a few times a week one of them will disappear for an hour and return with a beaded necklace or bracelet in the recipient’s favorite colors.  They color a dozen pictures for me a day and present them as a most cherished present.  They make things for each other, for me, and for other people outside our family.  They just LOVE to give gifts.

IMG_2836[1]

Gift from Addy- She and Cora swinging

IMG_2855[1]

This was an unused Christmas card she found. “Dear Mommy, It is going to get cold soon even though you don’t like it.”

IMG_2856[1]

Cora’s first ever masterpiece…she kept drawing “eyes” until she ended up with this!

IMG_2837[1]

My kids have learned that Mommy always likes flowers.

IMG_2838[1]

“Dear Cora, I am sorry you are sick. I hope you feel better soon. I love you.” -From Addy

IMG_2839[1]

Addy made a bracelet for Abe in all his favorite colors and then wrapped it with his favorite wrapping paper, followed by a gift bag. He wore it proudly the rest of the day.

IMG_2840[1]

More precious than pearls.

IMG_2841[1]

Just a few of the bracelets from THIS week!

 So these are all gifts just from the last few DAYS.  I mean, seriously, the kids love to shower people with gifts.  And the real kicker…..they never expect anything in return.  They don’t hand over the gift and then say, “Now what are you gonna give me?”  They don’t do it out of obligation, they do it out of love.  Sounds sort of like someone else I know.

God LOVES to bless His people.  Daily, if your eyes are open to His love, you can see His blessings in your life.  They come at times when you least expect it, they come often, and they come from LOVE.  Even in troubled times, flowers still bloom, the sun still rises, and hope still lives on.  God showers us with these things–more than we ever know–and He doesn’t say, “Now what are you going to do for me?”  He simply reminds that “My grace –my precious gift of grace–is enough.”

I’ve noticed that with God’s gifts and my children’s gifts I often take them for-granted.  I don’t give the thanks that is due, I may even consider in my sinful heart some of the gifts worthless–trash.  I may not see their beauty and full potential.  But the beautiful thing is these gift givers who were made by the Gift Giver, give on.

IMG_2858[1]

 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17