That is all. Thank you and Happy New Year.
Yesterday my last "work" responsibility before vacation started was doing Godly Play in our service last night. This was no small task, because the Advent story is pretty long and I have had little time to look at it this week. But I have done it before, and for the kids' sake (and the grown-ups too although they don't often appreciate it!) I wanted to do it.
As I was preparing, the line: "Joseph and Mary must have been the last ones coming up the road to Bethlehem that night" struck deep in my heart. I am definitely the last one coming up the road to Bethlehem this year. I have been waylaid by a million tasks that I was faithful to complete. With each of those tasks, the crowd of travelers drew further and further away, and I found myself standing on the dark road, weary and a little sad.
But God is faithful, and He walked that road with me to meet Him. He gave me the strength to finish my tasks well. And today He has blessed me with the time to sit, and look at the tree, and tend to my home with joy, and prepare gifts for friends and family. I spend a lot of energy at Christmas making it as meaningful as possible for the people around me, and that makes me joyful.
So today I will complete my labors of love with peace and joy, for the sake of the one born in Bethlehem.
So I will probably not be on much, if at all, between now and next week just so I have the time to enter into the season as much as I can in the time left!
Hope that your Advent season is full of peace and joy!
Today I got online to do a grocery order because I didn't really have the time or energy to go to the store. On a whim, I decided to check one more time to see if they had expanded their delivery area.
They have!!! I am so excited. Of course I was less excited after filling out my order (which took a good amount of time) only to find out they can't bring my food until next Tuesday! Yikes. Clearly I can't wait that long, and after finding out that my usual store can't deliver until Friday either, and that my Bible Study is cancelled for tomorrow afternoon, I'll be headed to the store tomorrow.
But! I am still planning on ordering from Mercadona. I just need to plan ahead a little. But I know we'll save money because their prices are great. Plus online shopping cuts down on any impulse shopping!
There is even a button in the right sidebar if you feel like linking to us :)
Also, a warning, I feel some blog template tinkering coming on, so brace yourselves!
I have lots of things I want to do today so this will just be a quick post to say I survived my work week. I worked 34 1/2 hours. The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole idea, but it got steadily better. The job itself is low stress, which is exactly what I need. And the paycheck is in euro, which is another thing I need :)
Everything here at home has been become more precious. Even walking the dog around the block is a quiet moment to enjoy.
I am not working this week, and the kids have Thursday and Friday off so it will be a good week together.
Happy Advent everyone. More soon.
Last week Dad was here from late Monday night until Thursday around lunch. On Thursday we had our "family" Thanksgiving and I was a bit dejected that my guest list had shrunk down to 9 of us including the kids. But we still had fun and yummy food. I was relieved that the turkey fit in the oven.
Friday morning I spent all morning running around doing paperwork so I could start work tomorrow. More on work in a minute. Four bus trips and a trip home for a piece of paper I didn't have with me later, I am now "empadronada" (like registered with city hall I guess) and have a Spanish social security number. Then it was on to service design meeting, then parent teacher conferences at school, then a mad dash to finish my CV before 5:30. Once that was done I crashed on the couch until my friend Pic and the kids came over to eat Thanksgiving leftovers (Troy went out with the lads a bit later.) After we ate (love leftover and friends who don't mind being handed a plate to fill and heat!) Pic and I lolled on the couches while the kids played.
Saturday we spent gearing up for our annual church Thanksgiving dinner that we host. It was too high pressure, but involved cooking 3 (small) turkeys, 2 turkey breast roasts, getting the house ready, going to pick up extra chairs, plates etc. and all that. Thankfully we had so much help from our great people that we were in great shape by the time the doorbell started ringing. We never got an exact count but it was over 50 for sure, and by 7:30 or so (we started at 6) all the green bean casserole, stuffing and sweet potatoes were completely gone. Plenty of desserts though (there still are leftover, come over for a piece! :) )
Today I turned 39. I didn't get out of bed until my family came in at 10 with my breakfast on a tray :) After scavenger hunts created by the kids (that's a whole post in itself) we got cracking, because we are insane. Insane because we decorated the house for Christmas today and had to clean it first after last night. Then we had a few friends over this evening to celebrate my birthday. Yes, we are nuts. But the tree sure looks pretty!
Anyway, so tomorrow morning I will go sign a work contract as a temp receptionist. I'll be working for a friend of mine who is an office manager a week here and there. I have not worked in an office for almost 11 years, and I have never worked in a Spanish office, so we'll see. Thankfully I am strangely at peace about it tonight and not nervous. I'll let you know how I feel on Friday after a week of 9-6! It's really a provision though as we need the money, and I'm thankful I'll get paid in euros.
Troy and I have also been frantically working on a new blog we are launching in hopes of bringing in some extra income. Hopefully we'll be ready in a few days. I'll keep you posted on that.
I am sadly behind in my Jesse tree ornaments but I still hope we can do it. I have the first six completely stitched but still have to finish them somehow. After that if I can stay a day ahead I guess we are OK :)
I have no idea what this week will bring blog-wise. I'm taking my laptop to the office with me but I am sure I won't be blogging!
All in all 39 is a good place to be!
After prayers though, on the way to getting kids in bed, we discovered Nic had not finished his dinner (he said he did) so had to address that. He was very repentant and tearful. I have noticed him being teary a lot this week, so I wrapped him in a blanket and sat in the rocker with him. I sang to him for a bit, and told him how we had bought the very rocking chair for when he was born. I never rocked my kids to sleep (I wanted them to learn to go to sleep on their own, which they did beautifully) preferring instead to use the chair for cuddle and bonding time. Tonight it felt good to hold my big little man close and sing his old bed-time songs to him.
The blessing of laughter and tears.
Our days have been full of visitors, and wondering what we are going to do for school for Meg next year (our school of choice has a severe shortage of openings) and all sorts of things. I'm only on ornament #6 of the Jesse tree, and a writing venture that Troy and I hoped to launch on Tuesday is nowhere near ready.
We have had the most beautiful fall weather. It has turned much colder, but the sky is amazing blue and the leaves are amazing. And since we haven't had much rain (which is actually not good) the leaves are still on the tree.
Anyway, that's what I've been up to. We'll see what this week brings!
I'll be back eventually. Talk amongst yourselves, all 3 of you.
One recent Friday Troy went to get the kids and I had Ray Charles ready on the CD player so that when the kids walked in it started playing. Nic loves it and it has become our Friday (or the last school day; it's another Madrid holiday tomorrow) anthem. This morning he crawled into bed with me and started singing "Everybody doin' the mess around."
Here's to family time, relaxing at home and messin' around. Enjoy!
"A husband looking through the paper came upon a study that said women use more words than men.
It read, "Men use about 15,000 words per day, but women use 30,000."
Excited to prove to his wife that he had been right all along when he accused her of talking too much, he showed her the study results.
The wife thought for a while, then finally she said to her husband, "It's because we have to repeat everything we say."
The husband said, "What?"
Received from Docs Daily Chuckle, via the Good Clean Funnies List.
Over time, our friendship deepened and the mentoring was really in a whole-life sort of way. Awhile back, she began seminary and training in actual spiritual directing. She herself began meeting with a spiritual director and the thought of it intrigued and appealed to me. So we made the arrangement a bit more official.
We talk once a month, for at least an hour. While spiritual directors are normally someone you meet with in person, it has worked well because of our prior relationship.
So why have a spiritual director? For me, I think it's a very good source of accountability and discipline. If left to my own devices, I know that I would not tend to my spiritual life in the same way. Inviting Elizabeth into my life in a deep and deliberate way helps me make sure that I am doing the work I need to do.
In all honestly, it doesn't always feel easy or natural, much like meeting with a counselor can be uncomfortable at times. I find there are many obstacles that get thrown up. But no matter what goes on before, I always come away from our conversations deeply grateful for them.
I would be interested in hearing your own experiences with the concept of a spiritual director, so leave me a comment!
"Welcome to the family, son" I said. "That's the only way this family is expanding!"
So now I have a 20-something son. He stopped by tonight for a little while, (long enough for us to feed him; thankfully he didn't bring any laundry!) and was here for story time and bed-time prayers. Then he left. So typical. They don't call, they don't write, they just stop in for dinner :)
But hey, at least the labor wasn't long!
So here's to good friends, who know you well, to friendships that you can slip on like a cozy worn sweater that fits perfectly and does your heart good.
Anyway, recently I have been thinking about taking the ad out so that I could do other things with my Fridays (I have been keeping those days clear just in case.) I figured that if I need to get a job anyway I need to clear my schedule some.
On the way home from walking the kids to school yesterday morning, I figured today would be as good as any other to try and get the ad removed. When I got home I was distracted by other stuff.
Later, Troy and I were praying together, and my mobile rang. Since it was our day off, I checked the number (in case it was the school or whatever) and on a whim, answered, although I didn't recognize the number.
It was D, a woman who moved her in the summer and saw my ad. And she knew more ladies who are interested!
This morning D and her adorable daughter came over and we shared a cup of tea. I'm excited to have some ladies to scrap with again!
God does have good timing....
Those of you who know Troy well know what is coming next.
"I'll get the post-its."
"I am NOT using post-its."
"But I think better that way."
"Fine, YOU use post-its."
Seriously. I should have invested in 3-M YEARS ago.
Today as we left school, Nic said goodbye to one of his classmates who was sitting on the school-bus. The little boy (who is around 7 probably) responded by sticking his tongue out and raising his middle finger. Nice! I wanted to climb on the bus and give that little boy a piece of my mind. Thankfully, both my kids are blissfully unaware of what the second gesture means.
It has been interesting because Nic has gotten quite protective of his big sister, and he gets very concerned if anyone is teasing or bothering Meg. He considers it his duty to intervene.
Anyway, I took the opportunity to have another conversation with them about treating others with respect; reacting differently because that's what Jesus wants us to do. And even though I'm less than thrilled that 7-year-olds are giving my son the finger, I am grateful that my kids are learning to show the love and compassion of Jesus to others from an early age.
Over our menu del dia we got talking about some writing projects that we could work on together that might generate some income. If we need to supplement our income we'd rather do it from home if possible.
Anyway, our creative juices woke up and we had fun brainstorming some ideas. We'll let you know if we get rich :)
Sleepily, I pull back the duvet so Meg can slide in beside me on my left, tucking the covers back over both of us. Then I lift the covers to my right and feel Nic's steps imprinting the bed as Troy sets him down somewhere near my feet. Nic wiggles noisily in beside me and we pile cozily together for the next 10 minutes while Troy showers and shaves. Cuddles and kisses and giggles, the best way to wake.
Later, on the way back from walking the kids to school, I solidify a new Monday morning routine now that Troy has Spanish class. Instead of crossing at my usual stoplight, I turn right and walk upstream against the general flow of people. I stop at the corner and pick up 2 of the free newspapers they hand out at the metro entrance.
Once home, I peruse the news and finish my now-cold coffee.
Then I get on with my day.
So as soon as Victoria walked in (she had called earlier to say she was coming over to do some homework and then watch some TV with us) we "asked" (read told) her that we were leaving her with kids and dog for a little while so we could go out and bite the bullet and buy a new washer. Thankfully today was payday and there was no sense waiting until we had no clean clothes left.
It took us a little while to get out there, decide on the damages, pick up some treats (frozen mini-pizzas, ice cream bars and Coke, all paid for with a coupon :) ) for dinner. On the way home Troy remarked that he felt guilty for ditching Victoria to babysit when she had come to hang out. I told him "That's what family does."
When we got home we thanked her again and I told her that Troy had been feeling guilty.
She said, "You know when your friends invite you to go out, but all you really want to do is stay home with your family? That's why I came over tonight."
Enough said. Family.
- That I got one more load of laundry done (i.e. school clothes for tomorrow) before the washer freaked out completely.
- That my children get a hearty, well-balanced meal at school at lunch so I don't have to fuss at supper time, especially when Troy is out :)
- Knowing that our friend Heide is coming to visit us soon, my Dad in December, and Katie and Jo, friends who moved away, in December.
- God's provision and encouragement, in His own, perfect time.
- My friend Mary.
- My Oasis Madrid team-mates.
- That payday is only 3 days away :)
- People who tell me that me requesting to be their friend on facebook is a "nice surprise."
- Encouraging emails that have been trickling in all day.
- Warm enough weather that we haven't had to turn on the heat yet.
In other random news, our washer seems to have a pocket full of change rattling around in between the drum and the outer casing so it's making a horrific noise. Apparently God is going to use our washer to provide for us one euro at a time. If we can get them out. We spent most of the morning taking things apart, putting them back together, tipping the washer this way and that. And the Crulls got locked out of their apartment today.
Yeah, random Monday. What is UP with that?
- Crisp air and deep blue sky.
- All kinds of soup, especially potato and pumpkin/squash.
- Cuddling on the couch in a pig-pile with kids, dog and feather duvet.
- Changing leaves.
- Sitting on the couch with my heating pad keeping me toasty warm (saves turning on the heat too soon :) )
- Hot drinks.
- The smell of roasting turkey ( so much so that I bought a little chicken, just big enough to feed our family, to stuff and cook this weekend :) )
- Stuffing, sweet potatoes and cranberries.
- Leftover turkey sandwiches with stuffing, cranberries and salt and pepper.
- Scented candles and fall decorations.
- Taking out the Christmas decorations as soon as Thanksgiving is over. (Pretty sure we're going to end up decorating on my birthday this year.)
It's kind of a joke with us, I'm always saying Oasis Madrid needs a compound. But actually, I'm not totally kidding. I'm pretty open on how it could look (an apartment building, a big ole' house, etc.) but I would really love to live in community someday. It's going to be kind of hard to ever pull off in Spain, but you never know!
So I was thrilled this weekend to find cross-stitch patterns for the ornaments. I couldn't be happier! I found the info on Bloggy Giveaways. You should check it out! I'm hoping to get ours finished and then maybe I can make one or two more as gifts.
Hopefully I'll be able to get back to regular posting this week.
Today my man turns 38. This makes me happy because that means from now until November 25th we'll be the same age. Then I'll be the older woman again. Anyway, in celebration of 38 years, here are 38 important facts about my husband.
- He is the only man that has ever kissed me properly.
- His children think he is the funniest creature on the face of the planet.
- He reads bed-time stories like nobody's business.
- He is a man after God's own heart, and that is no cliche.
- He is one of the smartest people I know.
- He cares very much about helping people in their walk with Jesus.
- He is almost always the first to admit he is wrong, with humility, and ask for forgiveness.
- He is a visionary.
- He is passionate.
- He has one of the most tender hearts I know.
- He is a gifted actor and writer.
- He is not afraid to cry.
- He has done the dishes for 16 years without complaint.
- He holds me in the dark and lets me cry when I need to.
- He loves to have his back scratched.
- He put others before himself 99% of the time.
- He is a loyal friend.
- He is a man of influence in many arenas.
- He is hard on himself.
- He is an amazing Dad.
- He shaves his goatee, wears my Mom's dress, my pantyhose and our team-mate's shoes when he "does" the Church Lady.
- He almost died when he was a toddler, and I believe God spared his life because He had great things in store for him.
- He is my best friend.
- He makes me laugh (although not usually at his jokes) and it always tickles him when he does.
- He has balls of steel.
- He is a learner.
- He still gets my engine going.
- He is a man of prayer.
- He is humble.
- He helps around the house without complaining.
- He is teaching our children to follow Jesus with their whole heart.
- He is teaching me that too.
- He sticks to his principles.
- He gets better with each passing year.
- He is the only one the dog really respects.
- He loves Jesus more than anything.
- He does not seek power.
- He is the love of my life.
Lately, my life is like a roller-coaster, and I don't much like it. More than a few moments during the past week, I've had my eyes screwed shut, my stomach screaming with stress and I have been hanging on for dear life until the short but horrifying ride is over.
But here is the deal. In seeking spiritual growth, I'm trying to "go" with God when He sends my days spiraling through cork-screws. I am trying to keep my eyes open and my head up and see what He is trying to teach me, what work He is doing in transforming me. I'm trying to do more than just endure and pray that it will end soon (the ride, not life :) )
I want to move past the point where I try and duck the pain, or go around, but learn instead to move through it, clinging to God as I go, growing as I go.
Sometimes I don't want to ride for one more second. Sometimes I don't want to have to grow one more inch. Sometimes I want to call God crazy for thinking a roller coaster is a useful teaching tool.
But I will stay strapped in and go around again, and again until I have learned what I needed to and can get off this ride and sit sobbing with relief in His lap.
This song Pray, really hit the nail on the head for me today, since it's the day we have set aside to pray about our life, ministry and finances and have asked friends to pray too.
To listen to part of this song, you can click here. But here are the words:
I will pray for you now
For you have been my faithful friends
While the road we walk is difficult indeed
I could not ask for more
Than what you've already been
Only that you would say these prayers for me
May your heart break enough
That compassion enters in
May your strength all be spent upon the weak
All castles and crowns you build
And place upon your head
May they all fall, come crashing down
Around your feet
May you find every step
To be harder than the last
So your character grows
Greater each stride
May your company be
Of humble insignificance
May your weakness be your
Only source of pride
What you do unto others
May it all be done to you
May you meet the one who made us
And see Him smile when life is through
May your blessings be many
But not what you'd hope they'd be
When you look upon the broken
May mercy show you
What you could not see
May you never be sure
Of any plan you desire
But you'd learn to trust the plans
He has for you
May your passions be tried and
Tested in the holy fire
May you fight with all your life
For what is true
I have prayed for you now
All of my dear and faithful friends
But what I wish is more than I could ever speak
As the way wanders on
I'll long to see you once again
Until then, would you say
These prayers for me?
Oh that you would pray for me
I think I love this song because it does not focus on the fluffy pretty things of life, but the things that in the end, matter most of all.
And on a day where I have cringed to see the euro rise some more, have wondered how I am going to pay both rent and the speech therapy bill, I REJOICE to be in a place where I cling to the Father's hand in a way I never do when things are hunky-dory.
So today, pray these prayers for me. And I will pray them for you, too.
Troy and I walked to school this afternoon to pick up Nicolas and make a backpack trade with Meg (she is spending the night at her friend Elisa's house tonight.)
I had in mind a peaceful Friday afternoon, full of relaxation, family time, a movie with Nic, popcorn, and that sort of thing.
But instead of too much peace, there has been underlying fret. We're still eating popcorn and watching Cars, but we're not relaxed.
It's a combination of things: worry about finances, busyness, whatever. But you know what? I think what has us overwhelmed today is responsibility. We have so many they seem endless. We have a responsibility to our kids, to provide for them and give them a secure home to grow up in. We have a responsibility to our supporters to use their money wisely. We have a responsibility to our mission to do our job. We have a responsibility to our team, to lead them well. We have a responsibility to our church, to provide them with a thriving church environment for them. We have a responsibility to each other, to share joys and burdens alike.
And of course, our most important responsibility is to God, to love Him with our whole mind, heart and soul. When He loves us so much, it seems like this responsibility should be easy. Yet we struggle to trust, to believe He knows what He is doing, to hold tightly to the knowledge that He does not leave us. Ever.
I have a feeling that if I just concentrate the most on that responsibility, that my Friday afternoon will be a little more peaceful.
The kids, of course, were thrilled to have Plank in the house, and spent the whole time crooning to her in the voices they reserve for small children and all animals.
Plank and Lexi get along well, although Lexi is starting to show her age. She would play for awhile, and then retreat to the back edge of the couch cushions and gaze askance at Plank, who was usually peering over the edge of the couch, asking for more play time. Lexi would look at me like "Who IS this one-eyed creature, and does it never get tired?" Eventually both of them would fall asleep, Plank snoring like the missing link between pig and dog, and Lexi whimpering and chasing something in her dreams.
A fine pair indeed.
Last week, I was determined to make it a cheap hour. I took a bottle of water and a book with me. After I took care of some banking, I headed back down the street. I was on the opposite side of the street than I normally walked on, but I found an empty bench and sat down to read my book.
Not much later, a weary looking couple trudged up and plunked down on the bench beside me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman tap her husband and ask for something. He was leaning over in a dejected fashion.
The woman turned to me and asked me hesitantly, "Do you speak English?" When I answered her, the relief on her face was beaming.
Turns out they were Irish, on holiday in Madrid and they were trying to figure out how to get back to their hotel. According to them, they didn't speak a word of Spanish. We had a nice little chat and I pointed them back in the direction of their hotel.
Maybe I'm naive, but I think God put me on that bench for a reason. I think He knew that couple was tired and deflated and brightened their day by putting little ole English speaking me smack dab on their bench.
He's pretty cool that way.
Anyway, our friend Jacob flew in today from Canada and brought me a package of butter tarts. I'm getting ready to have a cup of tea and I don't have to share them with anyone :)
If you want to try your hand at making them, you can find a recipe here.
We got to *Wonder Boy's stop, and at the last minute were arranging a phone call to figure out when he and Troy could meet.
As the doors slid closed, Wonder Boy began leaping alongside the train in Lord of the Rings fashion.
Then, without warning, he dropped from view like a stone.
The train glided into the tunnel, and Troy and I looked at each other.
"He was acting," Troy said.
"I don't think so," I said.
Fast forward to the end of the metro ride when we are on the street and have reception on my phone. I call Wonder Boy.
"Are you on the metro platform with a broken leg?"
"No, but I have a really big lump on my head."
Hysterical laugher (and a little sympathy) from the pastor and his wife.
"Did you black out?"
"I don't think so. But I laid there for a little bit."
After we had established that there was no permanent brain damage from having bashed one's head on the digital readout display (see above) because you were leaping through the air, we hung up, came home and proceeded to draw attention to said incident in as many ways as possible.
*Name has been "changed" to protect the dignity of the down-fallen.
I mentioned that we have been doing morning and evening office from Celtic Daily Prayer with the kids. As we say these words together every evening, this has been a real comfort (and challenge) to me. I hope it blesses you too.
"Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.
Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe."
The whole money things tends to start a cycle of mental gymnastics. It goes like this: We can't afford to have the kids in a British school. But with the language issues Nic has, and Meg's personality, the Spanish school system would do them in. So maybe we should home school. I don't want to home school. It's probably not even really legal here in Spain, it would make us seem even more foreign than we already do, both my kids and I would go berserk. And I would have no time to be a church-planter. I AM a church-planter. I work full-time pretty much, and so does my husband. Maybe I should try to get a job here...like teaching English, or something. Again, I would have no time to be a church-planter. So maybe we should move back to America and get real jobs. But we don't WANT to, and we don't think God wants us to either. But we feel greedy always asking for money. We feel guilty our kids are in private school. We feel guilty that we have leather couches (which is a supporter gave us, but still.).Maybe we should move to a smaller apartment. But rent has gone up across the board, so even smaller will likely be more. Blah, blah, blah.
And on and on in goes. We trust God completely to provide for us, and He always has. Yet each month, the dollar goes down, and the distance between paydays looms longer and longer.
It's so easy to get distracted by things that aren't important. I read blogs where there are always cute/fun/helpful giveaways and I think to myself "Wouldn't it be great if I could just win that?"
I don't know what the answer is. I am not panicky or worried. For now, we'll just try and cut where we can, economize and enjoy simple things.
This was the plan: the morning fairly free, my new women's group at 1, 3:25 to school to pick up children, I was to stay for a school meeting for Nic's class, Troy would bring Nic home for a quick cup of tea, then off to speech therapy, and then we would have the marriage counseling couple over at 8:30.
3:30, I look at the school meeting schedule one more time and realize that, guess what, Nic is NOT in the same grade he was in last year (duh!) and therefore his is a key stage 2 meeting. Which is tomorrow! So I went to school to pick the kids up, and Troy took Nic to speech therapy as planned. So I had some time to get the laundry going and sit down to read a few blogs. And Troy had already changed a mentoring appointment he would have had today because we thought I had to be at school.
5ish, marriage counseling couple called to apologize that they have to cancel tonight because they completely forgot about a conflict in their schedule.
BINGO! The whole evening free, leftover pasta from lunch for a decent dinner for kids, day off tomorrow. Thank you Lord!!!
I was stressed this morning because the euro keeps climbing, and our savings from our tax return (which was meant to pay for school) has been shrinking because of exchange rate and Nic's speech therapy. But I determined to not stress about it, and trust God about. And he has certainly already shown me today that He is watching over us.
We dragged ourselves out of bed though, and went off to school. Both kids were happy and excited to go back, for which I am very grateful. We reconnected with Blanca and she remarked how the kids are both taller.
It was a busy work-day, with staff meeting and office hours, both of which were full and productive. Back to school at 3:45 to pick up the kids. The walk home was stuffed full of happy chatter and the kids taking turns telling us about their day.
Once at home, Nic changed and had a quick cup of tea, and 2 cookies (the minimum multiple in which anything can be eaten!) then we were off to speech therapy by 4:20. I was a little afraid he would be wiped out after a full day at school but he did great.
Back home again, a Spanish worksheet for Nic, quick supper, prayers and bed-time. Then a few minutes getting the house whipped into shape for Troy's theater group. And the most important event of the day, the making of sushi.
I had heard a horribly sad rumor that my friend Mary had never had sushi, and I could not live another day knowing she was so deprived. So when she came over last night for our mentoring time last night, just had to have sushi :) She liked it, and we had a great time hanging out. We're going to be going through Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. And we decided it's very cool that he is a Quaker.
The first week of school is always crazy with beginning of term meetings etc, but my absolute least favorite thing to deal with is the covering of the notebooks. This year the kids brought home EIGHT notebooks of varying sizes that I had to cover in clear contact paper. Ugh. I finished the last of them this morning; hopefully no more will come home today!
Later I'm off to help move some supplies for our upcoming Serve the City
and then I have some office work to do, (I SO owe my friend Rachelle an email!) but right now I'm going to enjoy a little peace and quiet. And thank God that Monday is over!
I bless the poverty in your heart, that knows its own emptiness, because that gives me space to grow my kingdom there.
I bless that in you that touches others gently, because everyone responds to gentleness, and gentleness can capture even hardened hearts.
I bless that in you which grieves and aches for all that is lost or can never be because that is my opportunity to comfort you with my much greater love.
I bless that in you which longs and strives after your own deepest truth and after truth for the world, because even as you pray, I am constantly satisfying these deep unspoken longings.
I bless you every time you show mercy and forgiveness, because that is like a window in your heart, setting you free from resentment and opening up a space for me to enter and to heal.
I bless the purity of your heart, because that is the elusive centre where your deepest desire meets mine. That is where we meet face to face.
I bless the peacemaker in you, that in you which seeks the peace that passes understanding, knowing the cost of its obtaining, because that is what I sent my son to give, and in your peacemaking you become my child.
I bless even those things in your experience of journeying with me that feel like persecution and abuse and misunderstanding, because they are the proof your faith is no illusion.
WHERE you are (however unchosen)
is the place of blessing.
HOW you are (however broken)
is the place of grace.
WHO you are, in your becoming
is your place in the Kingdom.
As usual, I look back at everything I had planned to accomplish over the summer, and very little of it happened :) But it hasn't been a total bust.
Meg has gotten down the basics of typing correctly and even asks to practice quite often. She has been reading a lot this summer (and writing! I need to scan her latest project and post it). We've also noticed that she is starting to develop the gift of sarcasm :) (Even though I am the queen of sarcasm, I try not to use it with my kids, because I don't think sarcasm is really appropriate for kids. They just aren't emotionally equipped to deal with it and I think it just hurts and confuses them.) So far it has been light, and cute, but we'll definitely keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't get out of hand. If it does, Mom will have to do some serious tongue-curbing.
Nic has continued in speech and language therapy and is doing really well. We've noticed big improvements in a lot of areas. I'm so thankful that even after a hard year last year, he is excited to start school. That is a huge answer to prayer for me. He has such a good attitude and willing heart.
So it's Sunday afternoon and we're well on our way to being ready for tomorrow. Before bed tonight, backpacks will be ready (with snacks already packed), clothes laid out, kids bathed and groomed, etc. Mom will have to go to bed at a decent hour so that 7:30 am breakfast doesn't kick her too hard.
I am looking forward to schedule again!
I read this recently and it really spoke to me about my place...
Isaiah 61 (The Message)
Announce Freedom to All Captives1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness"
planted by God to display his glory.
They'll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God,"
honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations,
you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.
8-9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
and hate thievery and crime,
I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
as the people I have blessed."
10-11I will sing for joy in God,
explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
and puts praise on display before the nations.
And now, back to our programing.
Even though I got up and as Troy says "got cracking", (made the bed as soon as I got up, got dressed, but a load of wash in) the day deteriorated pretty quickly. I checked our Spanish account online (I'm always a bit jittery until I know the rent has been taken out, because I don't have any control of when it comes out) and found that they had taken out my quarterly health insurance BEFORE they paid rent. So I was now seriously short. So I had to scramble around for extra cash and run to the bank again before staff meeting to deposit more money. Of course, the banking day closed without rent clearing, so I am just praying rent goes out first thing in the morning before some other bill clears and makes me repeat the process again! And of course since today is Labor Day in America, the money I transferred from savings is not going to show up in our account for the next couple of days. Oh the joys!
Anyway, I was beating up on myself pretty well, for not being more organized, etc. etc. and blah blah blah.
This morning we had a worship and prayer staff meeting, which as usual meant a lot of sharing, some sniffly tears, some singing and lots of prayer.
During our worship time I was suddenly struck by the fact that I very quickly listen to the voice of condemnation. These verses came to mind:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2I very often do not allow myself to live this out. Even when the voice of condemnation is mine alone, I allow it to drown out the voice of God, the voice of grace. This is not to say that I should not hold myself accountable for my actions, but the fact that I almost immediately jump to self-recriminations.
Interesting isn't it?
I'm sure I could have put that all more eloquently, but it's the end of a long work-day and my brain is slightly fried from sending out our monthly update. So more on this topic later.
It's a beautiful afternoon and I have a happy heart.
Hope you have a great weekend!
Today, I definitely have it. And the next two mornings I promised I would pick people up at the airport at 7:30 am! I hope they don't mind the red nose :)
And oh yeah, there is a random person who has begun practicing their clarinet in our building. Thankfully they don't squeak too much. I could always get out my flute and have a duel with them.
OK, the cold is definitely killing brain cells.
But this post really isn't about dogs :)
Some days I tolerate Spain, some days I am ambivalent about it. But it's days like today, when I walk down the street having a conversation with the street cleaners, when they thank me, pet my dog and ask me where I'm from, that I love Spain. I love the banter and the interaction with Spaniards. It doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it's worth the wait.
Strange as it may sound, Spanish applause means a lot to me!
In the interest of saving time and yet still making sure you have the crucial details of my exciting week, you're going to have to put up with a bulleted rundown.
- On Tuesday we went out to see from friends that work at the E.C.A. And boy, it pays to be friends with the librarian, because we got to go over to the school library and check out books. Be still my heart.
- On Wednesday, Amy and I got tons done. We went to Ikea and I got a new bin thingy to organize stuff in the kitchen, she and I had a meeting and planned our next service, I put my bin thingy together and then we had home group that evening.
- Thursday was our day off and we had a relaxing day as a family; in the afternoon we went downtown and took the kids to see Ratatouille, which we all enjoyed.
- Friday I took Nic to speech therapy, then spent the afternoon working on the church website. Amy and the Crulls came over for home-made pizza for dinner.
As the end of summer nears, I find myself (as I do every year) craving order in my world in every area. I've been mentally processing the past year and thinking a lot about my "place" or my role in our life here. To be honest, the last year was often a hard and lonely one for me. I have wrestled with how I fit into the big picture.
Granted, I have long wrestled with insecurity, and this past year was just a more intense season of it as we transitioned into pastoring a city church. All of the sudden I found myself not knowing where I fit it. Most of our wonderful people are single, and we are the only family with kids older than 1. Troy has a clear role, and many of the people that come through our home now are here to see him. And while I enjoy creating the home environment that welcomes them, as a person I found myself at a loss.
Last year I felt validated as a pastor's wife, but seldom as just me. At times I have felt I am the one they call when they need a ride, or a question answered, or a place to stay, or prayer. And while I love fulfilling those roles and answering those needs, I sometimes find myself longing to be just a girlfriend, someone to go shopping with, someone chosen simply because of what I offer as a person.
I have known for a time that if I am going to escape that, I am going to have to "put myself out there" more, which is not something I am very good at. I am comfortable with people, but have a harder time "making the first move" as it were. Although I filled out an application for one of the women's clubs, I haven't mailed it, because frankly, it makes me cringe. I know that if I don't put myself in the path of others who are in my same life stage, I won't get anywhere. But it's still hard.
Being almost 40 is also weird, because it's sort of an in-between stage. You aren't young and hip and fun anymore (not that I have ever been hip :) ) and yet neither you are silver-haired, full of wisdom and grace.
I know that a huge chunk of my role right now is being a wife and mother. And yet it can feel lonely not having other women to share that journey with. Many of the women here in my stage of life also work full time, and then are busy with their families as well.
My biggest desire in all this is that the experience will draw me closer to Jesus. I hope that I can learn to sit quiet and close in his company instead of feeling hurt, jealous and sorry for myself. I pray I will reach out to others no matter what, learn to "plant my own garden instead of waiting for someone to bring me flowers." I certainly know that if I am bitter and crabby, that will bring the opposite effect.
In June, I read Anne Graham Lotz's comments on her mother Ruth Graham, after her death. I was struck by what she said:
“I would go down to my mother’s room early in the morning. Her light would be on, and I would find her at her big, flat-top desk. She would be reading and studying her Bible, with about 14 different translations spread out around her.That is my hope for this coming year.
When I would go down to her room late at night, I would see the light on underneath the door and I’d go in, and she would be on her knees in prayer.
As I look back on my childhood, I cannot remember any impression whatsoever that my mother was ever lonely. She may have been lonely, but I never saw it.
I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus, He was the love of her life. I saw that in her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that."
I'll post more later after I process a bit more and get settled back in.
What does postmodern mean? And why should it matter to parents?
Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. According to several postmodern scholars, we’re in a shift right now, leaving modern ideas behind, but what we are shifting to is not yet fully defined.
Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. They are skeptical, and often question whether science is something to be embraced or feared.
The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.
Should it matter even MORE to CHRISTIAN parents?
Yes, because how we interact with the world around us is very important. Parenting is something we do to train our kids to become interacting agents with the world. If we isolate our children in fear, then let them out the front door of our homes to college, they will not have the necessary tools to engage with all sorts of folks. If, however, we walk alongside our kids in community, teaching them about how to love the unlovely or discern right from wrong, they will have more tools to navigate the culture after high school.
I liken parenting to discipling. It’s a great walk-alongside endeavor. We disciple our kids to engage culture, yet remain unstained by the world. That’s a terribly difficult thing to do (something I am still working out in my own heart), but vitally important
What if I don't want my kids to think like post-moderns?
The book isn’t about getting your children to have a particular postmodern mindset, it’s about navigating through the culture alongside your kids. The key is to be there for them, model authenticity, and help them discern the culture they live in. More than anything, I want my kids to be Christ followers, not culture followers. I want them to be infatuated with Jesus and His kingdom. Most of that comes through the bread and butter art of modeling my own love for Jesus.
So how can I help prepare my kids for the world that is looming outside their door?
Become a conversational parent. Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story.
Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them.
Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.
Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own?
Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life.
You are the first to admit that being authentic might require a parent to apologize after an angry outburst. Are you saying that authentic parents don’t always have it all together as some would like to think?
Yep! We are all frail, needy humans. If we present ourselves as perfect parents, never failing, always doing this correctly, we show our children we have no need of Jesus. We also set up a standard of perfection—that to be a Christian, one has to be perfect. This can lead to our children creating elaborate facades or hiding behind masks. I’d rather have my children see that even mommies make mistakes. Even mommies need Jesus every single day.
You talk about the twin values of engagement and purity. What do you mean by that?
Many parents subconsciously believe that true parenting means protection at any cost. We received a lot of flak for putting our children in French schools because the atmosphere there wasn’t exactly nurturing. Believe me, the decision was excruciating. But through it all, I realized that Jesus calls us all to be engaged in the culture we live in, yet not to be stained by it. That’s the beauty of engagement and purity.
Abraham understood this. After God told him to leave everything and venture to a new place, he obeyed: “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). Oswald Chambers elaborates: “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two.” As parents journeying alongside our children through a postmodern world, this concept of pitching our tent between communion with God and engagement in the world should encourage us.
If you would like to read an excerpt of Mary's book, click here.
To get your own autographed copy, click here.
And while you are at it, check out Mary's blog and website.
To check out Mary's great fiction, go here and here.
Now I just need to take a shower and pack up toiletries and then hit the hay. I am not thrilled about the actual journey, but can't wait for dinner tomorrow night when we'll join the other team leaders for dinner and our first session.
One of the BEST things about staff conference (or Connect as we are supposed to call it now) is that there is always an excellent program provided for our kids. A team comes from the US to basically do VBS with them and they always have a blast. So we can enjoy our sessions and they have a great time. I am really grateful for a mission organization that values my kids.
Not sure about Internet access or time to get online, so if not before, I'll be back in Madrid on the 18th but probably not back online until the 19th.
Until then, have a good one.
August in Spain is a challenging month, because businesses literally shut their doors for part or all of the month, simply putting a sign on the door saying "We're closed for vacation; we'll be back on...." It's a crazy way to do business, but totally common here. Enter the vet. I have called a few times and left messages saying I want to board the dog. So far, nobody has called me back. This happened to me 2 years ago but then the vet called me back at the last minute. I am hoping that happens again, but if she doesn't, I'm going to have to figure out something. Arghghghghghghgh.
I also still need to do laundry and pack, which is do-able, if I just get to it.
In more exciting news, our Amy is coming home tomorrow morning! Yay! We're so excited.
We got rain over the weekend (yahoo!) and so much wind that big tree branches fell down all over the city. It was crazy. But the temps are down a bit, so it's all good.
Last night, the boys were gone on The Sleepover so Meg and I grabbed a burger for dinner and then watched Ever After. Meg was a bit sad that the boys were gone, so she ended up sleeping with me.
Today we have staff meeting and office hours, then I really need to see about getting our newsletter photocopied (yeah good luck it's August!) and getting the house clean. A German friend and a friend of hers are going to be staying in our flat for the weekend after we leave, so it really needs a good going over.
And now I need to get dressed and take the dog out!
I would drop Troy as school on the way to work. Our route took us near a UPS hub, and we used to count the number of brown trucks we would see during our morning drive. I can't remember now what the record was.
After I dropped Troy, I would continue my drive.
Over this bridge:
Twice a day.
Yesterday morning I looked at CNN (my main source of news) and clicked on a link about a bridge collapse on the Mississippi river (mainly because I am a shameless ambulance chaser.)
I was stunned to see if it was a very familiar bridge.
Yesterday we spent a lot of time checking on the updates, emailing friends and family to make sure everyone we love is safe and sound. So far, everyone is accounted for. Today the names of the four confirmed fatalities were listed.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to feel that bridge fall away from underneath your car.
It's one of the odd things of living so far away from a familiar place. I find myself torn between being present in Madrid and feeling like I am standing at the edge of that broken bridge, watching what is going on there.
Nic does not really have any buddies his age yet.
Yesterday, Jonathan the wonder boy looked at Nic, and said "Would you like to come over for a sleepover some time next week?"
Today we decided that the chosen day would be next Monday. Within a few minutes, Nic had packed two bags and was clamoring for another for his sleeping bag. He dragged the bags (containing who knows what) into the living room and lined them up neatly. I made him take them back to his room.
To say the boy is excited would be the understatement of the year! He's beside himself with anticipation.
They also decided to invite Daddy along (Personally I think that was Jonathan's way of making sure he doesn't have to get up at an unearthly hour of the morning!)
I guess that means that Meg and I get to do whatever we want!
It also has something to do with growing older with grace and not caring so much about wrinkles and grey hair.
But my brown hair, it used to be a lot prettier and shinier. And now, the top of of my head just looks washed out and dull and full of lots of wiry, very grey/white hairs.
So today I caved. I bought some brown hair color. I don't plan on using it very often (I don't mind when the grey starts creeping back out) and I bought the Carrefour store brand so it was under 4 euro.
Hopefully I'm not a terrible person for not sticking with my morals :)
I always start to panic a bit when it gets time for our annual staff conference because I think that summer is over. But we still will have almost 9 work days before we go, and then 3 weeks more of "summer" after we get back from Hungary and before the kids go back to school. My mental to-do list is growing, so I'm trying to write it down so I don't go back to work (mentally) prematurely.
The temps have definitely risen, and right now my temp bar says it's 95 at 6:58. Around mid-day we actually close the apartment up and put down shades etc. because at that point the air outside becomes hotter than what's inside. Thankfully, in the dry climate here that works well.
Anyway, that's it for now. We'll be back to business in a couple of days!
Then I opened CNN and read this:
Oops. The article said
"Up to 500 people are estimated to have died across Hungary last week, partly due to a heat wave gripping central and southeast Europe, Hungarian medical officials said on Tuesday."And where do you think we are going in 2 weeks for Connect, our annual CA conference?
You guessed it. Hungary. Granted, Sopron is up near Austria, so maybe it won't be so bad.
But my weather bar also says it is currently 91 degrees at 8:30 pm. And it also has a little picture of a red thermometer with little red wavy lines coming off it for Friday. Right next to where it says Fri: 99 F.
Either way, maybe it's time to eat some humble pie. But that would require turning on the oven, and it's, obviously, too hot for that.
- Because really, your own bed is the best place in the world to sleep.
- It's a lot easier to eat healthy (read, stay on your diet) at home where you can cook like a normal person. Or easier to find the number so that Foster's Hollywood can bring you ribs and a chicken Caesar salad right to your door.
- Because in Spain they sell light whipped cream in a can, which goes nicely on top of the Starbucks coffee you just brewed. And your own stove-top coffee thingy is big enough so you can get 4 cups out of it instead of only 2.
- At home, your children will get out of bed, pour their own cereal and watch a DVD, all without interference from parents (in other words, you don't have to get up and check that they didn't break anything/spill on anything)
- The pool right downstairs does not have any sand around it to muck up everything you brought with you.
- The internets
- Because whoever said this was going to be a REALLY hot summer must have been smoking something, because at 10:53 am it's only about 66 degrees.
- Children squabble a lot less when they are in their own environment and have eleventy-billion toys to play with.
- Because going to the grocery store, having your groceries delivered and cleaning out the fridge and pantry cabinet is actually relaxing when you don't have a million other things to do.
- You still have all the e-books you bought to read.
- You can buy cereal they don't have in Spain, like multi-grain cheerios, cookie crisp and cinnamon toast crunch.
- You can keep yourself entertained the whole week with books from somebody else's shelf (I read The Kite Runner, Peace Like A River, A Perfect Match and Oh My Stars. I think that is the order I would rank them as well. I only got part-way into one of my e-books, so I still have plenty of vacation reading.
- The beach.
- Portuguese pottery; it's way nicer than Spain's, IMHO.
- Hanging out with friends (kids and adults both).
- Frangu (roast chicken) and french fries.
- The friends' house where you stay has a gas grill. Hamburgers were good, shoulda done steaks.
- School of Rock, Jack Black's best.
- Cleaning someone else's house is more fun than cleaning your own.
- Moderate temperatures, blue sky and sea, and a sea breeze.
Way to go Kelly!
Check it out! www.oasismadrid.org
P.S. Yes, we're back safely from Portugal, but still on vacation for another week :) I am tanned, and have read 4 books for far. Viva las vacaciones!