Friday, March 27, 2015

Break...

It's Five Minute Friday! Each week, a flashmob of bloggers gathers to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then links up and shares a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!


I've slowly become a "shop small" supporter-of-local-businesses over the past 10ish years, but I was shown a new facet of that last year that shattered my views and caused me to see how broken our world has become. 27 million. So many people in bondage - doubly bound, in desperate need of both physical freedom and spiritual hope.

All because humanity has become dehumanized in a desperate and futile quest to be like God - not realizing that if we will only break before Him, He will fill us with His own Spirit and do things through us, to His glory, that we could never do ourselves.

Sometimes we try to repair the damage done - well intentioned, but not always perfectly executed. Lasting hope requires more than a new home - hope in a new Garden that will never fade is more enduring.

That's why I love things like The Refugee Project - empowering the displaced, giving them the tools they need to make a difference in their own lives, while pouring love and hope over the brokenness.

Check out their website for more adorable products, including the earrings pictured above!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beyond All Mountains Steep

Gifts...
1403. Adam helping me run errands in the rain - dropping me off at the door and staying the truck with Brooklyn and Tobin so I could just run in
1404. The bedtime yoga routine I found in a magazine
1405. Tobin sleeping til a semi-reasonable time (since he went to bed so early...)
1406. Midday morale from Adam, in the form of a hug and a cupcake
1407. Getting all of Brooklyn's clothes organized
1408. Taking a bath while Brooklyn and Tobin napped
1409. Erranding before the rain really started
1410. Spontaneous tea with Heath and Kristin
1411. Watching a movie in its entirety while putting away laundry
1412. Groceries and chai before church, so we didn't have to go after
1413. A walk at the park, just-us-three
1414. Brooklyn giving Adam a kiss goodnight, after putting her toys away with only verbal prompting
1415. 15 minutes of solitude in the sun on the back porch
1416. A snail mail letter that I had totally forgotten about (after I sent my last one, some part of my sleep-deprived brain thought it was over)
1417. My first pair of Fair Trade Friday earrings, from the Refugee Project
1418. Noticing that Brooklyn had messed up the timer in time to rescue the muffins
1419. It being almost (but not quite) too warm to walk at the park - we took a swinging break midway to cool off
1420. Journaling on the balcony with a cup of tea
1421. Salvaging the stained cushion of a chair (with some sale fabric and a roll of ribbon) rather than buying a new one or just living with the stains
1422. A tiny box of morale, brought to the door by the postman
1423. Tobin sleeping a 9 hour stretch, during a time when I could also sleep
1424. Adam home in time to help get everyone ready to go
1425. New Community
_______________

1426. Tobin's 2 month check-up going well - he's more than doubled his birthweight!
1427. Inexpensive flip flops for Brooklyn - she needed a pair of sandals, and she was between sizes on her regular shoes
1428. Finding a double stroller that should work for a long time
1429. A spontaneous drive to Dallas
1430. Relatives who invite us to stay with them, even on just a few hours' notice
1431. Good conversation and lots of knitting time
1432. My cousins happily entertaining/wearing Brooklyn out at the mall
1433. Safe arrival home
1434. Taking a shower and testing a good-smelling new hair treatment
1435. Adam making me breakfast, since Brooklyn had the last muffin for hers
1436. A solitary trip to Whole Foods
1437. The new carton of eggs not smashing all over the floor when Brooklyn pulled it off the counter
1438. Getting sufficiently caught up on rest that a one hour nap was refreshing, instead of demoralizing 
1439. Adam picking up the pictures I forgot about while I was running errands earlier 
1440. Two working vehicles, so he can drive mine to work while his is in the shop for A/C repairs 
1441. Finishing the grey yarn and starting the green on my current project
1442. Our friend/downstairs neighbor going by Dempsey Bakery and getting us cookies
1443. Getting the back porch cleaned and tidied (and not being wasp-stung in the process)
1444. Writing letters on the balcony in the sun
1445. Surprise notes in the mail (as well as Brooklyn's "sleepy doggie" that we accidentally left in Texas and my aunt sent to us)
1446. A three mile walk to Big Dam Bridge all-four-together


Sometimes I count gifts because it's wonderful - and sometimes I count them to remind myself that all is a gift, even when it doesn't feel like it. The past few weeks have been the latter. Some pretty awesome things have happened, but everything's been shrouded in a dreary sort of fog that deadens the joys and amplifies the negative... but I still count on. Because even when I'm in darkness buried deep (whether that darkness be figurative or literal), I cling to the reminder that above all shadows rides the sun, and stars forever dwell. The sun will rise again - and because the Son has risen (the greatest gift of all!), I already know how the Story ends; that Good will triumph and Darkness will be banished for eternity.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Off the Page and Into Practice

Practicing Pauses! Last week I discovered what "rests" me the most - this week, thinking beyond myself and finding peace through acts of kindness toward others.


As part of consuming less and creating/adding to the beauty more for Lent, I've been randomly trying to make people's mailboxes happier. Letters, notes, scarves, cookies, a print... mostly things I already had, or had a discount code for - it's surprising how little it can cost (in terms of both money and time) to brighten someone's day. And they can often also involve writing and tea drinking, two things that brighten my day! I was trying to do something every day or so, but Life hid around a corner and pounced me on my way by, completely overwhelming me for a few days - and then an act of thoughtfulness on the part of a long-distance friend reminded me that sharing what I love with others is an act of love in itself.

Rest is most restful, and pauses are most productive, when they're not completely focused on me. Reading and studying and journaling with the desire to draw closer to God... spending my time plotting things I can do for others instead of myself... even something as simple as choosing vulnerability and posting the grimy "before" along with the shiny "after" photo, or stopping to share a moment of beauty and encouragement, either in a public post or a private text. All of those happy thoughts and uplifting verses and quotes multiply when they're passed along to someone else instead of locked away in my own private journal.

That's one thing that I've loved so much about #fmfpartysnailmail - a few minutes choosing a card (I'm slowly working through my card stash...) and a few minutes praying and writing some words of encouragement is time well spent, and it's so exciting to receive notes back. Even though it can be initially awkward to write to someone you know nothing about, those provide especially great opportunities to attune your heart to the Spirit's prompting.

Kaitlyn has graciously and extraordinarily led and organized and made this snail mail project fabulous for 5 rounds - and now she's passing the torch to us: Jen, Rebekah, Andrea, Jessica, and myself. The form to sign up for Round 6 is here, and we're looking forward to working together to keep #fmfpartysnailmail the encouraging community that Kaitlyn made it!

Round 6 starts on April 6th - won't you join us for community in your mailbox?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spontaneity



Tiny T had his 2 month check up (a month late) on Thursday, and weighed in at 11 pounds 5 ounces - not so tiny anymore!


He can roll from his tummy to his back, and he's starting to hold things - a finger, a blanket, his knees - but hasn't reached the grabbing stage yet. Not that he really has a need to reach for anything - Brooklyn is more than delighted to shove toys into his little hands.


Brooklyn is growing more helpful and participative by the day (ok, she wasn't much help with assembling a new double stroller, but at least she would bring the instructions back when asked). Putting the papers in the tin whenever I make muffins is now her especial task, and she's very sweet to bring diapers and burp cloths when I've got my hands full with Tobin, and to put his toe-blanket back on when he kicks it off in his carseat while I'm getting ready to go.




We went on a spontaneous adventure to Dallas on Friday - Adam had a long weekend, so we went for a drive that ended up being an overnight stay. Adam had never been to Dallas, which was fun, and Brooklyn and Tobin were very brave.


We stayed with my Uncle and Aunt and cousins that live there, and hung out with them until Saturday afternoon, when we headed home. It was really nice getting to see them (we usually meet up at Christmas, but we missed last year because we were home with Tobin), and they exemplified hospitality in a sweet way.



I got some knitting done on the road that I wouldn't otherwise have, and we had a nice two days doing something completely unplanned, as family.


We three will be staying home for the next few days (hopefully not more), since Adam's having the air conditioning in his truck looked at (if the truck isn't moving, it blows hot air - not good) and taking my car to work (it's such a blessing to have two working vehicles!) Hopefully I can finish the sewing project I started last week - the spots and stains on our white chair seats were on my nerves, so I ad-libbed a removeable washable cover (two squares of cotton duck sewn together, with a couple lengths of ribbon by which to tie it to the chair) and since the first one worked I got fabric to make a matching one for the other chair.


We went for a walk at the park today, before settling in to read all the books and play with all the toys, and find new things to poke a handful of pompoms into. Hopefully all of the going over the weekend will make the staying in (it's spring break here, so all of our weeknight activities are off) more restful than stressful.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Priorities

I've been talking about Practicing Pauses on Tuesdays - last week I wrote about Sabbath, and today I'd like revisit prioritizing the things that bring us the most rest.


I went on an elimination diet of sorts last week... for a week, I only did things that were absolutely necessary. Diapers were changed. Everyone was fed at appropriate intervals. Laundry was done and put away. The dishwasher was emptied and reloaded before we reached a point of having to handwash dishes in order to use them. Baths were given and showers taken. My Lenten devotional was read every morning while feeding Tobin and before getting Brooklyn up.

When I get a little uninterrupted time, I always have so many things that I want to do with it that I waste half of it trying to decide what to do (this is why my mother never told me I was being timed for standardized testing...) By not doing any of it for awhile, I hoped that the deepest desires would rise to the top.

So at the end of that week, the very first thing I did, when I had a chance, was write. I wrote a couple of letters. I journaled several pages. I put up two blog posts and drafted a third. Then I made a cup of tea and sat down to catch up on the blogs that I follow, and went ahead and read a chapter in Acts in preparation for the next Sunday's sermon, and worked through the next chapter in my Forgotten God book study. And before I took a brief nap, after putting Brooklyn and Tobin both down for one, I knitted a couple of rows on my current project.

Write.
Drink tea.
Read.
Knit.

Now I know - whenever I get a few moments of peace, I have a good idea of where to start, and what will do the most good in the shortest amount of time. The week of not doing anything was a little rough, but more than worth it for the data it provided.


What would bring the most peace to your pauses? What small thing feels like a breath of fresh air when you're overwhelmed with life's busyness?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Our Spot in the Sun


Such a big little guy! While he still can't do much more than look on, he enjoys being a part of our adventures.



It poured rain most of the week, so the bulk of our adventures happened indoors. Brooklyn and I sorted all of her clothes (I've kept all of them) into Keep, Donate, and Stained (her part was mixing up the piles while my back was turned). Now I need to get the 4 brown paper bags of outgrown things to a fostering agency here in Little Rock, so that someone who really needs them can have them.


There's so much need here - but there are also quite a few organizations that want to help. Adam and I did Walk for the Waiting last year (Brooklyn snoozed in her stroller the whole time) and we're planning on walking again this May. It's so great to see how many people turn out to raise money and awareness, hoping to find a forever home for every kid.




We've been getting in a little practice by walking at the park (once the rain stopped and the sun came out). It's been pretty warm the past few days - I decided to walk to the grocery store from the park, rather than buckle everyone in only to have to get them back out 3 minutes later, but realized about two-thirds of the way across the barren, shadeless parking lot that it was a little warmer than I initially thought.


Brooklyn has been attempting to include Tobin when she plays - putting things in his hand, reciting Counting Kisses while kissing his toes/feet/knees/tummy/hands/nose/ears/head, booping his nose with a toy fish, offering him tea (she balanced the cup on his tummy)... for the most part, he just smiles at her.



She's especially fascinated by belly buttons at the moment. She usually wears onesies, but warmer weather means Tshirts sometimes, and she discovered that they allow belly button access. So now she also checks for mine at every opportunity.


Brooklyn's growing and maturing so much - she's also started cleaning up (I hand her her toys one by one with the instruction "put it back"), mostly with prompting but occasionally she'll put a book back on the shelf on her own.


Life with these two is definitely an adventure - books and toys and tea parties, hanging out inside and getting up to stuff outside. I think we should swing at the park today...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

The weekly reckoning...
1382. Adam having two days of leave before working through the weekend
1383. and his superior cancelling one of those days, because it was snowy and everyone stayed home anyway
1384. Brooklyn's continuing interest in lunch
1385. The Museum of Discovery - we all needed to get out and do something together
1386. Going for a drive - we got some uninterrupted conversation, Tobin got a nap, and Brooklyn happily pointed out all the cars and everything yellow
1387. A date night in with PF Chang's carry out and a Redbox movie on the projector
1388. An encouraging reminder from She Reads Truth
1389. Surprise tea from Rebekah
1390. Tobin happily chilling with Adam while I had a Google Hangout meeting
1391. A little more sleep than I've had the past couple of nights
1392. Adam home safe and early from Drill (he started his day at 3am and was up late the night before)
1393. A discount code for a gift
1394. An early nap for all of us - I wouldn't have made it through the day otherwise
1395. Beverly holding an umbrella for us while I got Brooklyn out of the car
1396. New, comfortable, ethical jammy bottoms
1397. A not-cold not-rainy morning on which to get groceries
1398. Encouraging conversations by text
1399. Adam getting home with enough energy to talk for a little while, and to hold Tobin while I showered
1400. Sitting in the warm sun on the balcony
1401. Uplifting interactions with a distant friend
1402. Adam's mom coming by for a little while - she got to play with Brooklyn, and I got to make breakfast and clean the kitchen


My weekend was a little rough. Adam had Drill, and Tobin chose Thursday and Friday night to barely sleep (meaning I barely slept, with him), so I was neither physically nor emotionally prepared to face a weekend, a week, another weekend (because he has Drill this weekend, as well), and then part of the following week mostly solo.

But on Saturday, a wholly unexpected box arrived, containing a sweet note and a tin of amazing tea. We made it to church on Sunday, and Tobin slept through the service, allowing me to stay and listen the entire time. We went to The Gathering in the pouring rain on Monday evening and someone kindly shared her umbrella while I got Brooklyn and Tobin out of the car, and then one of the ladies in my small group held Tobin so I could write down my prayer request (we all write a request on a slip of paper, then mix them up and each pick one for the week). Tuesday a friend in Fayetteville texted, sparking a conversation that was equal parts light and serious. Yesterday, Adam's mom came by for a brief visit while she was in town on other business, and a now-distant friend inspired some creative thought that I've been sorely missing. And just now, I was re-encouraged by a snail mail note from over a month ago, as I reread it before sending a reply.

None of those things were very big in themselves - but the cumulative effect of those random acts of kindness, instances of intentionality and sometimes inconvenience, has resulted in an uplifted spirit despite the dreariness of the day, and confidence that this weekend won't be so bad, despite it being just-us-three.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a
We're not meant to walk alone - who can you lift up today?