Monday, January 30, 2012

The Telephone Game

Here is a short video of Hosanna playing with Joshua's telephone. (It's amazing what 3rd-borns get away with, isn't it?)

Joshua teased me later about having the camera out of focus the whole time, so I apologize that it's not 100% clear. I'm still learning my camera!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Snippets

1. Hosanna's first steps

Hosanna, (14 mos.) is only just beginning to walk with the aid of someone holding her hand. Over the last couple of weeks she has been practicing standing up and has grown quite confident on her legs as long as  she is stationary. She pushes chairs around the house like walkers, and even walks on her knees sometimes! She has made a few attempts to walk 3-4 steps into the arms of Mommy or Daddy, but the occasions are rare. Abby and Rebekah are her zealous cheerleaders, and it probably won't be but a couple weeks more until she's off!

Now that Hosanna is getting around so much more, she is able to get into the kitchen cabinets. She has known for quite some time where the snack/chip cabinet is. Just recently I discovered that she is well able to open it by herself and has been making frequent raids on it when Mom's not around! Smart girl--she knows where the goods are. :)

Hosanna loves to eat and to smile!

2. Sick Again

Yes! This makes the 4th month in a row that we have been battling sickness. The girls caught a cold, which wouldn't have been too bad were it not for the ravages of Whooping Cough on their systems only a few weeks before. Let's just say that for about a week it was nearly like having Whooping Cough again. Gratefully, I think the 3 little girls are better now, but poor Josh has been sick for over a week with a flu bug, and the end is still not in sight. So far I haven't gotten sick with anything, which is just the mercy of God! I have brushed up with germs in just about every way you can imagine. I'm so glad I've had the stamina and health to take care of everyone else!

3. Painting

For quite awhile now, I have been wanting to get some color on our walls. When we moved into our apartment we were in a major hurry, so we quickly chose a neutral off-white color and slapped it up there. The long, gray winters make me gravitate toward anything cheery, warm, or inviting, and this year I was particularly desperate to freshen up the walls for that reason.

Joshua has been kindly purchasing the paint for me so that I don't have to drag 3 little girls to the hardware store in the snow. :) At first I was really excited and making great progress, but things slowed down when the kids and Joshua all got sick again and I resumed my night shift taking care of them. Nevertheless, little by little the walls are taking on a new look. Due to the painting project and the illness in our family, the blog has taken a bit of a back seat.

Still in progress... more pictures to come later!

4. Little Girl Photos

On the swings outside our apartment

We had some winter fun with all this snow!

Let it snow!!

Coloring just like the big girls!

Abby's new bangs

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today's Happy List

photo courtesy of Audrey, Wikimedia Commons
It's amazing how the first thoughts of the morning can affect the mood of the entire day, for better or for worse.  Gratefulness can sure start things off right, even on mornings when I'm feeling extra tired and battling a headache. This small list made me happy. :)

1. I am healthy! (Despite all the rest of my family being sick.)

2. I have an important, purposeful job.

3. I have no deadlines or heavy pressures today.

4. I have a man who cherishes me and shows me love in so many ways!

5. I am abundantly provided for.

6. God is for me. He is on my side. (Ps. 56: 9; 118:6; Romans 8:31)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Rebekah!

Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, Even the God of our salvation. Selah.” (Psalm 68:19)  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

4 years ago...

Four years ago, I held this precious person in my arms for the first time.

Rebekah Praise,  January 17th, 08'

Where does the time go?

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all....” (Psalm 104:24)  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

This is Jesus Christ

While I'm not big on making New Year's resolutions, I often, come late December or early January, find myself thinking seriously about the direction of my life. This year was no exception.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting by the twinkling Christmas tree with my Bible in hand, alone and uninterrupted (somewhat of a rare occurrence!). I don't even remember if I was praying, or if I was reading this or that passage, but one thing is distinct in my mind. God was impressing something on my heart, something that needed to be at the top of the priority list for 2012.

As I looked at the Bible in my hand, one thought kept coursing through my mind: "It all comes back to this Book." "This Book is the crux of everything." 

It began to dawn on me that anything we call a relationship with Jesus--growing spiritually, learning more of His ways/Word, developing character, loving Him more--all comes back down to one thing: His Word.

This Book is Jesus Christ.

If I want to draw closer to Christ, it is primarily through this Book. If I want to know Him more, and live for Him better, it is through this Book. As I partake of its words, I am partaking of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The Bible is God's one tangible gift to me that enables me to take hold of Him. Jesus is given to me in a form that I can hold, touch, read, think about, memorize, taste and DO.

I knew as I sat there that my mental diet needed to have some excess fat trimmed out of it: excess social stimuli, too much time indulging my flesh by sitting idly by wanting to be entertained, too much thought spent on things that don’t matter (or worse, that harm). I needed to push all of that aside and focus. God was gently reminding me of a priority far above all the rest.

I appreciate a quote I came across recently, in a book by a friend of mine, Natalie Wickham. She was quoting a family friend when she wrote:

"It matters not how much you are in the Word, but how much the Word is in you." ~Pajama School

This really brings it all into focus. The important thing is not the number of verses read, the chapters ticked off and completed, or an attainment to someone's perception of spiritual gianthood. The important thing is attaining Christ Himself.

May He, through His Word, be our pursuit in 2012!

And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Snippets

1. Christmas in January

Christmas in L'viv. The stately Opera
House behind the tree.

That's right, it is Christmas time again! Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7th, so all of L'viv is hustling and bustling in preparation and celebration. Today I had a fun walk through the downtown area, which was decked with lights, trees, and a Christmastime bazaar. Ukrainian Christmas traditions are similar to many of our own, including special foods, caroling, gathering with family, and honoring Christ's birth.

A view through the bazaar, toward the Opera House.

Christmas shoppers and vendors

When the Soviet Union was in power, Christmas was a forbidden holiday in this area, as it did not support the pervading atheist propaganda. Due to that, holiday celebration and anticipation was centered on the New Year, with gifts being given, trees decorated, etc. When Ukraine gained independence and returned to widespread celebration of Christmas, the day was distinguished primarily as a tribute to the birth of Jesus, while New Year's retained its former holiday fanfare. As a result, people here still put up "New Year trees", and purchase "New Year paper" to wrap their "New Year gifts" in. It sounds kind of funny to our ears, but in a way it is nice to have those things separated from the celebration of Christ's birth. Neither is there talk of Santa on Christmas Day. Christmas is entirely a religious holiday, although St. Nick does make an appearance earlier in December. The 19th is celebrated as Saint Nicolas Day here, on which children receive gifts from parents and other close friends. This would probably be the closest thing to our Christmas morning.

There you have it--your Ukrainian trivia for the day. ;)

2. Coffee with a friend

Every week, without fail, Joshua sends me out by myself for some time away from the kids. (Have I mentioned what a wonderful guy he is?) I usually get a cup of coffee and sit quietly reading, planning for the week, or collecting my thoughts. This week however, I had a great time catching up with my friend, Krystia, at a dessert cafe. She is married to Igor, has a precious 2-month-old daughter, Eva, and is a wonderful believer from our Ukrainian church group. She is an encouragement to me!

Krystia and me on Ukrainian Christmas Eve

3. Nicolas Nickleby

I loaded up my iPod with 34+ hours worth of Charles Dicken's, who has been an entertaining companion thru food preparation and household chores. (Whenever I don't have entertaining little girl companions, that is!) In the moments when the kids are asleep or occupied, I've enjoyed the story of this young man trying to make his way in life against great odds. Thwarted by a stone-hearted, avaricious uncle and a cruel schoolmaster, Nicolas must not only protect his own honor, but also act as the lone defender of a beautiful sister against the advances of a rich and profligate lord. And I'm only halfway through the story! He is a hero you can't help but root for.

4. The Pertussis saga...over the worst.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) certainly has its challenges, but by far the hardest part is the fact that it stretches out for such a loooooong time. After weeks of being up nights, hosting little sleepers in our bedroom, administering remedies, staying at home, and praying, it would appear that we are finally over the hump. All the kids still have an occasional bout of coughing, and probably will for a couple months yet. But the worst is over at last and we are returning to normal. We are so grateful for all of you who prayed with us through this tough season!

5. New Year's, new goals

I love the chance the New Year offers to set goals and plans, to bring closure to old things and start on new. Among other projects, we have been easing back into a school routine with the girls. One of our new "classes" this semester is going to be music awareness. I'm having a fun time planning basic music concepts to teach, such as rhythmic patterns, recognition of notes and names, location of notes on the piano,  beginning sight reading, and singing.  We've ordered a basic set of children's handbells, a small glockenspiel, and some noise makers to begin making music with. Can't wait for them to arrive!

Don't these look irresistible?

"Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee." (Psalm 63:3)

Friday, January 6, 2012

One Right Thought Can Change You

[I wrote this a couple of weeks back, but just didn't get around to posting it until now!]

Today began with everyone getting up late. You know what that means. Mom is behind, and everything feels “off”.

Then, around lunchtime, a 5-ring circus act somehow made it’s way right into our home (completely uninvited, I might add). One child was out of sorts and needing correction. Got her quieted and began reading to child #2. In the middle of our story, the phone rang. It was Joshua asking me to do a quick proof-read for him. “No problem! I’ll just finish this story and get on it. Then we’ll do lunch.” I hear a sick baby coughing in her sleep and needing attention. I go to attend that and realize that she has thrown up, so I strip her bed and try to get her calmed back down. Blanket! I can’t find a clean fuzzy blanket for her to snuggle with. She’s still sleepy. Blanket found. Baby back down. 

By this time, both older girls are loudly asking for lunch. I tell them I want to check daddy’s article. I give it a once over. More pleas for lunch. I start heating up soup from last night for the girls. I get that on the table for them with the phone ringing a few more times in the process. Meanwhile, baby awakes again. Bottle preparation underway. Uh-oh. Mega dirty diaper. Rash that really hurts. Crying baby. Coughing baby. Throw-up on floor. I’m trying to put out fires and realizing that I’m really hungry. Girl’s don’t want to eat the soup. I admonish them to eat it up, several times over. Just getting the baby diapered when I hear from the dining room, “Mama! Oh no! Please help me!” Soup all over the floor. Distressed girl. Girl is told that she will have to clean up her own mess. Ultra-distressed girl….

Somehow, we managed to get the baby quietly resting with a bottle and food back on the table for everyone, including mom. The girls were watching a film for a few minutes and I went to the kitchen to collect my wits. Suddenly, it came to me: "The Lord is my Shepherd. He cares for me and is leading me through all this." It was as if my little frazzled nerve endings took a deep breath.

It is so easy to acknowledge a truth in one’s mind without assimilating it into one’s heart. There are plenty of truths that I know, but have I allowed them to change the way I think and operate on a daily basis?

I often wonder how I can possibly take care of these children. I don’t mean feed and clothe them, or clean their soup up off the floor. How can I take care of their souls, guiding them to full mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity? I forget that I have a Shepherd.

I find myself worrying about a current perplexing situation, unsure as to how it will resolve, if ever. I forget that I have a Shepherd.

I ask how I can possibly fit it all in: homeschooling, eating healthfully, exercising, spending time with my children, helping my husband, being a friend to my friends, a daughter to my parents, educating my mind, keeping my home, serving others, helping in the ministry, etc. etc. etc.? Am I forgetting something?

I forget that I have a Shepherd. One whose job description is leadership. It’s not my responsibility to do anything by myself.

Obviously there are other biblical truths that could also apply to the above situations. But the point is that one right thought, when applied, can change the way I think, the way I feel, and the way I act. And the change is always for the better. God is in the process of teaching me how to take truth and prove it in my own life, and the more I am able to bite off and chew, the more my heart rejoices.

Today, I am glad I have a Shepherd who gave His life for me, a Shepherd who is intent on leading me. And I’m grateful God has given us a whole Book full of truths that can transform us, if we’ll let them.
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