Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Farewell October

It's the last day of October. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but it is already almost winter again. I am so thankful to have these two cute little girls to spend my days with. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Year of Grace

Lexi and her "sister" B - July 2011

It's time to write about our year of intentional living. I have been putting it off for months, mostly because of the fact that we had a new baby, moved, and were going through so many transitions at once it was all I could do to get my family clothed and fed every day.

But know that I have wanted to give you a good conclusion. A good reason for ending the year without acting like it never happened. Because it did happen. And it's time to reflect.

Last spring, Eric and I felt that God was calling us into radical Gospel centered living. We didn't really know what that was supposed to look like, only that we felt moved by the Spirit that we had to walk in obedience to whatever big was coming. We simply had to be willing to listen and obey. So we listened. It was then that God brought a sweet couple into our lives who also felt the same calling on their lives. We connected, and within a span of a few months, knew that we should move in together for a year of intentional community living.

Going into it, I think we each had our own grandiose ideas and visions of what our year would look like. Basically a lot of people would come to know Jesus, we would be serving every day in our surrounding community, and we would be sharing most things in common and have incredible fellowship every day. We were all going to be best friends and inseparable and it was going to be AWESOME.

In reality, that didn't really happen.

I will not speak for everyone, and I am sure that each of us has our own thoughts about how last year went down, but I will only speak to my own experience.

Barely two months after moving in together, Eric and I found out we were expecting our second baby. I was ecstatic until the sickness set in (which I have written about before). I honestly believe that had I not been so sick, the following nine months of living with this other couple would have been completely different. Perhaps not, but it happened regardless.

For me personally, there were a lot of high points as well as low points in our year of living together. There were also a lot of things looking back on it that I wish I had done differently.

I wish I had lived and loved freely, instead of stuffing anger and building barriers.

I wish I had practiced forgiveness every minute of every day, instead of letting things build into exploding and crying myself to sleep almost every night.

I wish I had served more, and pitied myself less.

I wish I had not judged so harshly, and instead loved more fully.

And I wish we had laughed more and struggled less.

But even a midst all of the difficulties and adjustments, God spoke to me and worked in me like never before during this last year. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker most of the time and for a while yelled at God for "picking on me." But He wasn't picking on me. He was merely doing what I had asked Him to do. Perfecting me. Cleansing me. Giving me the opportunity to get rid of all the "me" and fill my life with HIM ALONE.

I just didn't think it would be so messy. So painful. So hard to let go.

But God is good and faithful. And so throughout all the brokenness and sin in my own life last year, there was also an incredible outpouring of GRACE.

I learned, and am still learning, how to receive grace. How to give grace. And how to walk daily in grace.
As a testimony to this, when our daughter was finally born in April, she was given the name Grace. My entire pregnancy with her relied on the grace given to me, and my acceptance of it and choice to walk in it. It was only appropriate that her name reflect that. She is a daily reminder to me of God's sovereignty, goodness, and love that is always given, but never deserved.

Me with Lyla - April 2012

This past Monday at my Moms group we were discussing raw emotions and how we react and respond when certain situations arise. This passage from the study we are doing struck a chord with me, which acted as a catalyst for this reflection.

"When I take the easy route, I let the situation dictate my reaction. When I am determined to pursue the good, I rise up and unexpectedly give grace. I give grace because I so desperately need grace."   (Lysa Terkeurst, Unglued)

I give grace because I so desperately need grace. 

Romans 5 explains it perfectly here.

And how we are instructed to live in Micah 6:8. (ESV)

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Things didn't quite pan out for me as I had hoped, as far as my big dreams for intentional living and community serving were concerned. I felt disappointed and disillusioned until I realized that God's way is always better than my own. There was more brokenness in my own life that needed to be worked at first. And of course, making my own plans for "ministry" will always fall through. Instead, Eric and I experienced a year where our marriage was strengthened, our love relationship with Jesus grew immensely, and we were put into positions of leadership that we never saw coming before. We began to fall in love with our neighborhood and see the depravity in it. We began to realize what loving people with Christ's love really means. We got deeply involved with our church family and invested in people to disciple and people who have discipled us. We learned what community is and what it isn't. We learned about forgiveness. We learned about communication. We learned to walk in grace.

About halfway into our year of living together, Eric and I started listening again. God seems to keep asking us to do really big things. I guess when you are obedient in the small things, He ups the anti, right? ;) He began working on our hearts for this years ago (if you know our story, and our love for orphans you will understand this), so we weren't surprised when He revealed to us our next step in His story. The problem was, the next thing He was/and is calling us to do, involved us needing more living space that was not shared. The couple we lived with also felt like it was time to go separate ways as well, so we had a mutual agreement and ended our year together just after both of our new babies were born, when the lease ended this last May.

Life with this couple could have gone better. There are many fond memories mixed with a lot of things that I regret in the attitude of my heart. But overall I wouldn't take last year back. I even tell people that it was a good year. A hard one, yes. The hardest I have experienced by far. But a good one. And I believe that to be true. It was not a failure. It was making imperfect progress. I love Jesus more because of it. I am walking in His grace because of it. Without last year's "pressure cooking," I am convinced it would have taken me ten years of growth to get to where I am today. And I have certainly not made perfect progress. But I can say for certain that I am making imperfect progress. Imperfect progress moves us forward, by and in God's grace. 

Eric and I are currently in the lengthy application process to becoming a licensed Foster Home for kids in Chicago who don't have a safe, loving home of their own. We are in the beginning stages of the process, and the whole thing takes up to four months. If all goes well, we are expecting to have a child, or more likely a sibling group, placed with us sometime in the early months of the new year.

It turns out that for us, living out the Gospel is not only tough, but it also calls for radical life change and sacrifice. And of course, a whole heaping of blessing and joy! Loving Jesus is serious business. God's Word is serious business. Being a light in this depraved and hurting City is serious business. And letting God in to work on all the mess in my own life is serious business. And in spite of it all, I will never turn back. I am alive because of His grace. And so very thankful for it.

May we continue to walk in His abounding and never ending Grace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

G-Love Time!

This last weekend we were honored by the visit of Eric's parents. His dad has had some health difficulties this year, and was not able to travel for several months. This weekend, and by God's goodness, Dad blessed us with his presence and was finally able to meet his second born granddaughter. Who, by the way, has an adorable double chin. ;)

My girls were showered with so much grandparent love, I was certain they would explode. They didn't. (Well, actually they both did, but Lyla's was the diaper kind and Lexi's was the tantrum kind, and neither one had anything to do with the grandparent love kind. :)

 Grandpa even encouraged Lexi in her obsession with construction vehicles. (And I thought only boys were into those....wrong!)

There is always lots of giggling with a Grandma nearby! 

 Silly, happy Lexi. 

Grandpa surprised the girls with an early Christmas present. A beautiful kitchen handmade by Grandpa and Grandma themselves! Lexi is so in love and is cooking up some delectable dishes. Here she is showing off her cooking skills as well as the new little skirt that I just made for her.

Thanks for visiting, Grandpa and Grandma! You are always welcome. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkins and Dinosaurs

Last week we took a trip to a pumpkin farm out in the suburbs with some friends. 

Lexi was enthralled by the pumpkin-eating dinosaur. We had to go back three times during the course of the morning to watch it move around, chomp up its pumpkin, and then let out a huge belch with some steam. Most of the four-year-olds were too scared, but Lexi was a little bit in love. 

Playing with friends

 Lyla in her starfish suit (passed down from Lexi. If you want to see Lexi in the same suit at the same pumpkin patch, click here). 
 My sweet potatoes. 


Not to be left out, I shrunk too. 

After returning to her normal size, Lexi tried to pick up all the biggest pumpkins..... Maybe next year. ;)

Woody on steroids. Lexi was in her glory. 

And of course, Buzz gets a hug too. 
 And Rex.
 Straw maze. I was scared poopless. I kept losing Lexi around every turn, which of course, made her run even faster because she thought it was hilarious to lose me. Little people should not be allowed in straw mazes. Period. 

This tunnel was pretty awesome though. Lyla wanted to be in the picture too.

Running towards the light!

 Fire engine time with friends! 

Lexi is still tiny and cute.

By the end of the morning, Lyla looked like this. 

And Lexi looked like this. See the pain on her face? It is screaming nap time.

Within five minutes of leaving the pumpkin farm, Lexi looked like this. ;)

Almost forgot to mention...this particular pumpkin farm also brings in a few hundred exotic animals during their fall season. Along with giraffes, and a bunch of animals I have never heard of or seen before, we also met this guy. Had to share. His chops are rather remarkable.

And speaking of pumpkins, my lovely chevron painted pumpkin made it outside to adorn our front porch. And now it looks like this. Thank you squirrels. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


It's Wednesday nap time. 

It was only after my baby fell asleep that I realized that I had (once again) put her to bed in my studio...which also contains all of my sewing supplies... This week I signed up for a 7 day kids clothing sewing challenge which so far I am failing miserably at. I have not only missed two days of the challenge due to being extraordinarily busy in the evenings, but I also spent over two hours sewing a scarf for MYSELF. And it's still not done. I hope my children forgive me. Maybe I will re-start the challenge for myself and just do it next week....

There has been a lot of Autumn around here this week. Pumpkin pie, hot cider, and of course, the pumpkins themselves. Lexi's mini pumpkin got covered in stickers. Mine got a chevron makeover.

Lyla is six months old today. She is so funny. Not only is she a really laid-back, happy-go-lucky baby, but she is also a mover. She started crawling (the full hands and knees crawl) at five months and then today, to celebrate her six-month-ness, pulled herself up on the laundry basket that you can just make out in the picture...(what you can't see are all the clothes that have been waiting to be folded for the past three days...*sigh*). I am the unfortunate mother of two highly athletic and physically coordinated girls. Am I really destined to be a soccer mom? (*sigh*) Can we please just forego the mini van? (*double sigh*)

Our local playground has turned into a fairy land in the past week. We have been spending lots of time there, which is so much more refreshing and fun now that the oppressive heat is gone and we have crisp cold air instead. Lyla napped in her stroller and Lexi and I had the whole playground to ourselves this morning.

We collected leaves.

Gazed up at the dazzling colors.

Romped around...

Happy. happy. happy.

I even remembered how to make a leaf crown. 
Lexi was a little crazed, dazed, and confused I guess, at the thought of being a fairy queen. 

And now one babe is awake and is squawking loudly for me to come and release her from her crib prison. 
Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Last Weekend of September

This weekend was amusing. 

Friday night I went to a bonfire at our best friend's house and had a night off from the kids since Lexi was in bed with a fever and Eric volunteered to stay home with the girls. What I didn't know is that when I would arrive home in the wee hours of the morning, both of the girls would be awake and crying and I would be just in time to see Lexi throw up all over Eric (I'm still thanking God it wasn't me...) and then help hose her down in the shower and throw everything in the washing machine (so glad I finally have one!).

Saturday Eric had a gig that got canceled, so for the first weekend in a loooooooong time, we had our Man home with us. :) Lexi felt much better later in the day, so we all treated ourselves to a long walk in our gorgeous Fall weather and some pumpkin frozen yogurt which was quite divine. 

Sunday we woke up and discovered Lexi in the kitchen eating cream cheese out of the box with a fork accompanied by a jar of raspberry jam. She mixes flavors well. Anyway, after church we met up with some friends and spent all afternoon at the beach. And this is when I love the fact that cell phones have cameras now. Because I definitely always forget my camera, but of course, am never without my phone. 

 My oldest always refuses to take pictures with us, so our family portrait consists of me, Eric, and the back of a sleeping babe's head. One day we will get a real family picture!

Proof that both Lexi and Luc were there too. ;)

Monday consisted of being late, arriving home from Moms group to discover that my hair looked worse than horrible (I was kicking myself for not showering), getting baby barfed on, toddler poop on my jeans, lots and lots of tantrums and time outs and messes and not good things. So to raise our Monday blues into joyfulness, we drank some green smoothies, took naps, and did lots and lots and lots and lots of laundry all afternoon. I also officially gave my babe the boot from our bedroom and put her crib in my art studio for the week while we sleep train her. Best. Decision. Ever. In a week or two, she will hopefully be able to join her sister and give me my creative space back (because it is all about me, after all, right?).

There really isn't much point to this post except that I don't have anything to do right now since my art studio is occupied and my house is (almost) clean for company tonight. Although I do believe my time has run out and that there is a certain little girl peeking at me from her bedroom doorway...

Happy October!