We’re In!

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Our Makeshift Table

We finally moved into our home–two months after having bought it!!  We’ve been moved in for two weeks now and things have settled down enough that I finally feel able to update our status here.  I’ll just fill you in on the more interesting details of our first two weeks, but rest assured there is a lot more that I just don’t have the energy to tell you about tonight.

If you remember, the previous occupants were not too happy about leaving.  When we arrived with our two vans and a small U-Haul trailer to unload in the evening hours of the agreed-upon move-in date, we discovered that we had been left one key which only opened one of the three entry doors.  An even greater discovery, however, was that there was a whole lot missing from the house that we had not expected to be gone.  All the towel racks, toilet paper holders, several doorknobs, two vanity lights, all of the downstairs light fixtures except one, all of the upper cabinets in the downstairs kitchen, the dishwasher, the kitchen sink, the curtain rods, the closet shelves and rods…not to mention the gouges and holes knocked in the walls.  Sigh.

Oh, did I tell you that it was getting dark as we were feverishly trying to get everything unpacked and into the dark house with five tired and cranky kids as helpers?  Yeah, that was super-fun, and when I say super-fun what I really mean is awful.  It was completely dark by the time we finished and we ended up barricading all of the entry doors with our belongings because we didn’t have time to change locks.  The first night was about as much of a letdown as you can experience when moving into a new home.

The next day was spent gathering up trash and belongings they had left behind.  I also scrubbed furiously to get a bathroom and kitchen clean enough to be usable.  The thorough cleaning led to some interesting finds.  We discovered that there was drug use and probably dealing going on in the house.  I found drug paraphernalia, a couple of stash locations and a small amount of actual substances as I cleaned my way through the various rooms.  We had no idea they were doing that here!  One discovery prompted us to call the police so that we could turn said item over to them.  My husband, bless his heart, went through and shampooed all of the carpets after a couple of days.  It was so wonderful!  Have you ever had to sleep on a filthy carpet?  If so, you understand just how thankful we were to get it clean (or as clean as possible).

We also started to discover some of the house’s quirks: a leaky kitchen window, a couple of small leaks in the attic, non-functioning outlets, a leaky toilet, a crazy labyrinth of a basement.

The first week was really just a desperate attempt to catch up on the mountain of work to make the house habitable and try to establish a working daily routine.  We made it through, but it was definitely not feeling like home.

The second week gave us a few opportunities to catch our breath.  We got to visit the library, which is super-important to our family.  We ate at IHOP and encountered a homeless man sipping a beer in the lobby as we were leaving.  I stopped and sat by him on the bench, gave him the $4 in my purse and chatted for a few minutes as the children stood by and we waited for Daddy to come join us.  The man was shy and cast furtive glances at me as we talked, but he ended up smiling and told me that his mama used to make good pancakes.  I felt bad that he had to think back to a time probably more than 40 years ago to dredge up that positive memory of a time he felt loved.  As we walked out to the van I lamented that we couldn’t do more for him.  I remember what it’s like to be cold and feel forgotten.  I wish I could fix that for everyone.  We talked about keeping a tote with supplies in it that a homeless person might need to stock up on, for the next time we encountered someone like him.  It’s not an idea that would fix the underlying problem, but I suspect that it would be a way to tell someone who is homeless: I care about you and I want to help meet your needs.

We had a few visitors to our house, as well.  Our realtor and friend stopped by for a short visit the day after we moved in.  A family that we’re friends with rented a huge U-Haul and brought a lot of our belongings down to us from storage, then helped unload the van and stayed overnight.  It was a lot of work, and I was especially proud of how all of our kids kept at the work even though they were tired, crabby and hungry.  They are troopers!  Another church friend came this weekend with a carload of our belongings and helped with more cleaning (Seriously, I think we’ll be scrubbing for 6 months!).

The house is starting to feel more like home now, albeit a semi-functional home.  We just got the washing machine hooked up today (hooray!), the kitchen is mostly usable (with its electric frying pan/griddle/microwave/mini fridge/toaster oven setup), we’ve found Walmart, and we now have a real dining room table to eat at (with chairs, no less!).  We’re looking forward to what God has planned for us in this place, but we’re also feeling the weight of everything that still needs to be accomplished–from installing light fixtures/doorknobs/cabinets, to cleaning, to disposing of a basement full of rubbish, to unpacking a mountain of boxes, to finding a couch that will fit through the door, to tackling the exterior repairs.  All the big and little things add up quickly and can feel like they’re going to bury you.  We’re trying to maintain a healthy pace and take things slow and steady.  The work isn’t going anywhere!

Tomorrow we’re trying out a new church as we haven’t been able to attend service the last two Sundays.  We’re just trying out a likely place and we’ll see how it goes.  Eventually we’ll find the right place.

My Sister

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This is all my kids know of their aunt–my sister.  She died right before my wedding, so the kids never met her.  All they know is mom’s stories and a gravestone.  I grieve over the things that they never got to share with her–birthdays, Christmases, trick-or-treating, camping, reading a story, laughing, hugs, a relationship.

I wanted to visit my sister’s grave before moving away and I brought the kids along, thinking it would be a good thing for them to visit as well.  We brought yellow daisies and each put one on her grave, then walked around the cemetery looking for other relatives.  Right next to my sister are two of my grandparents and my aunt.  We have other relatives scattered throughout the rest of the cemetery–another aunt, another grandfather, their siblings and parents, etc.  Carved out of a large farm field is this plot of land which houses my extended family who have passed on.  Someday I will probably be buried here, too.  There’s something comforting thinking about being laid to rest with my family in this peaceful and quiet plot of land.  Until that time, I want to live a life that is worthwhile–a life that would make my sister proud–a life that would honor her memory.  I sure do miss her.

Jim Gaffigan — Hot Pockets

What with all the heavy stuff going on lately, I’m in need of a bit of humor.  Jim Gaffigan has this running joke about Hot Pockets that I love.  Enjoy…

Race, Intentionality & Positions of Power

Tonight I want to talk about promoting greater understanding between the races through intentional interactions.  I am a great believer in the power of setting ourselves up so that we purposely have meaningful interaction with people who are different from us.  This is especially important if you want to promote understanding in your children.  Let’s face it–when kids learn that it is normal and even beneficial for people to have differences–they don’t run into such major prejudicial stumbling blocks later in life.  I use the analogy of flowers when talking to my kids about diversity.  I say that just like God created a wide variety of beautiful flowers, He did the same with human beings.  God purposely created people to be different and all of us are beautiful to Him.

The method of purposely seeking out people different from ourselves is what we’ve adopted with our kids.  Sometimes it has happened naturally, as when my good friend adopted a child who was born with cerebral palsy.  My kids are used to being around someone in a wheelchair and have learned that though activities sometimes need modifying, she is still their friend.  Another friend has a prosthetic leg.  We’ve gotten so comfortable with it that we now joke about it with him.  I love that my kids see the person before they see the medical condition.

When we made the decision to move to the inner city, we decided that we would seek out an African American realtor.  One reason was that we believe it sends a message to society at large when white people put themselves under the leadership of someone of another race.  We don’t always need to come out on top and be in charge.  I think it’s also a great thing for our kids to see–a person of another race in a position of power, and in a context that is relevant to their life.  We also plan on attending a church where we put ourselves under the authority of a pastor who is African American.  Not only will this send a message to our children and society at large, but it’s in consideration of future children who will be in our home for foster care/respite.  We think it’s vitally important to allow those children (many are African American in this particular city) to see positive examples of people whom they can identify with by race.  If we stick with what is most comfortable for us and allows us to blend in most easily, they will be the minority in many of our social interactions.  We would rather be the ones who stand out as “not belonging” because of our appearance, than have them experience that stigma.  So our reasons for seeking out interactions with those different from ourselves are multi-faceted.

I want to follow that up with a caveat.  It’s important to let these relationships and interactions develop in a natural way.  We don’t go up to random people out in public and try to strike up a conversation or develop a friendship simply because they are of a different race.  That’s just awkward and really going at developing relationships in an impersonal manner.  Your relationships should develop just like any normal relationship would–based on regular interaction, good conversation, thoughtful deeds, fun, mutual interests, etc.  The key is to be intentional about your actions, but natural in your relationships.  And why not discuss this topic with your friends and associates of another race?  I had a really good discussion about this very thing with our realtor and learned that she did the same thing with her kids.  It can be very cathartic for both parties to be able to discuss issues of race with someone of another race.  Just remember that the person inside and warm friendship should be the defining factors in your relationship.  Don’t let it become a clinical study.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Hypocrisy On Steroids

I can’t even…what the heck…how do you justify this???

I just listened to the press conference from OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, outlining the current administration’s proposed budget cuts.  The things that they particularly focused on were EPA funding, and funds given to states which are used to implement Meals on Wheels and school food programs to benefit kids who might not get enough to eat.

Now, let’s leave the EPA out of the argument for now because I know that is a more controversial issue for those who are more conservative.  Let’s just focus on the food programs that benefit the elderly and children.

I just want to ask a simple question here.  I’m asking this question of U.S. citizens only right now.  Do you think that U.S. citizens should be entitled to enough nutritious food to fuel their bodies each day?

What is your answer?  Has anybody answered no?  If so, please clue me in to your reasoning.  Why should we not help feed seniors who need help with shopping/food preparation/getting nutritious food?  Is it better for them to suffer from malnutrition?  Is it better for them to starve?  Is it better for them to fall and break a hip because they’re standing at the stove cooking?  And why should we let kids who don’t have enough food to eat at home go hungry when they’re at school?  Do they learn better that way?  Should the kids be punished because their parents are poor?  Are you really saying that if you are poor, disabled, old, or unable to shop for or prepare food that you don’t deserve to eat?  Really?

Are people really defending this proposal?

If you identify yourself as a Christian, and you believe that we should cut these most basic programs which feed nutritionally at-risk seniors and children, you are living in a fantasy world.  You are not a Christian.  You are a Pharisee and a hypocrite.  You’re not fooling anybody except yourself.

What did Jesus say about hypocrites?

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matthew 23:27-28

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Matthew 25:31-45

I am so angry that people would claim to be followers of God and then willfully ignore the plight of those who don’t have enough to eat.  Shame on you.  You will have to answer to God someday and I hope that you repent while you’re able to.  If you cannot understand why God wants you to feed the hungry, then you need to study your Bible until you do understand it.  Read it for a year if you need to, but you need to internalize God’s central message of love before you can claim that He is guiding your actions.

Rant over and I’m going to try to stop fuming so I can sleep tonight.

 

 

A Basic Discussion of Racism

To have an educated discussion about racism, I suppose the first thing we need to do is establish a basic definition of the term.  Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster online…

Definition of racism
    1
    :  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2
       a :  a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
    b :  a political or social system founded on racism
    3
    :  racial prejudice or discrimination

I want you to read the definition carefully at least twice so that we have a similar understanding of the issue we’re addressing.  The first definition is what I am really focusing on today–the idea that your race determines your traits and abilities, and that because of racial differences, some races are superior to others.

Now, if we can agree on that very general definition, we can start to think about what it looks like when someone is “being racist.”  (According to dictionary.com racist can be defined as: a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.)

We’ve all witnessed racist behavior.  When I was going out with a boy in high school who happened to be Hmong, my grandpa asked if there weren’t any white boys to go out with.  I loved my grandpa, he was generally a decent guy, but in that moment I saw that he was harboring a racist idea.  That would be an example of what I would call milder racism.  You can also go to the other extreme where you find people who burn crosses on people’s front lawns and would like to murder those of a different race.  I would classify that as extreme racism.  Both kinds are wrong–but the differing levels can make a lot of difference in how the racism is acted out and how it is perceived.

Personally, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to label someone as racist, though I’m sure there are people who deserve the title.  For your average human being, I think it’s more helpful to talk about harboring racist thoughts, engaging in racist talk, behaving in a racist manner.  Most of us think that we’re decent people deep down inside.  Whether or not that’s true of a certain individual, if you come at them and call them a racist, they are going to take offense or block you out because they don’t personally identify themselves as racist.  They may even go so far as to project the title of racist back on you.  As I’m sure you can imagine, this would make an open discussion of the subject rather difficult.

If we can remove the personal element of the argument and focus instead on the thoughts, ideas, language, actions, policies, etc., I suspect that we will make much more headway.  I’m not saying this to sterilize racism or deny the personal impact it has on people’s lives.  But if you want to begin a rational conversation with someone who is displaying racism, you have to start somewhere.  One way to do that is to start with the nuts and bolts–before layering on the personal and emotional impact of racism in the lives of real people.  Once someone understands that the ideas and tenets they believe might possibly be biased or flawed, the hope is that they won’t take it as a personal attack when you present anecdotal evidence which debunks their assumptions and prejudices.  I hope that I’m making sense and you’re following my line of thinking.

I can’t say unequivocally that this method will work with all people.  Perhaps personal anecdotes would work better in educating some people.  Maybe another person needs to actually meet and have regular interaction with someone of a particular race before they are willing to let go of their prejudices.  But for now let’s just stick to the dry, boring, and rational discussion of racism for this post.  We can cover those other areas in the future.

So…how do you go about discussing racism with someone you believe may be harboring racist ideas?  If it’s someone you are close to, you will probably have success just asking them about their views.  If they have to verbally express their ideas in front of someone who remains neutral while listening, they may start to hear the unkindness in what they are saying.  It will be a challenge for you to listen without flipping out or jumping in with your own opinion.  Try to stick it out, though.  Continue to ask open-ended questions and listen to their answers.  Repeat back to them what you think you hear them saying.  Ask for clarification when necessary.  Try to fully understand their perspective and thoughts.  Not until you’ve heard them out, can you expect them to respectfully listen to your viewpoint.

The above scenario makes sense when you’re dealing with someone who can have a reasonably appropriate conversation.  However, if the person I was talking to started showing gross racism (as in lots of big racism) or using racial epithets, using crass and hateful language, I would choose to discontinue the discussion.  Someone who cares so little for others that they’re willing to throw decency and propriety to the wind is not someone who is going to listen to your point of view or consider another perspective.  You are not going to make inroads with everyone–especially those who are very firmly entrenched in racist ideals.  Save your time and energy for those who simply need more information or need to follow their thinking to its logical conclusion to see if they are really comfortable with their beliefs.  If you can help someone exhibiting racist ideas to come to a crisis in their thinking, they may choose to discard those racist tenets.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to begin to have open conversations about race, prejudice, and diversity with the people in your sphere of influence.  You don’t have to come out with a big announcement about what you want to discuss, but bring it up when appropriate and spurred by real-life news and events.

I wish you the best of luck!

With A Social Platform Comes Responsibility…

I have really held off on this post because I don’t enjoy divisiveness.  I don’t like confronting people or disagreeing with them.  I am a middle child, and like most middle children, I just want us all to get along.  Can I get an amen?  Please don’t think this is a Democrat/Republican thing.  I don’t identify with any political party and I’m not endorsing one.  So let’s just get that out of the way.

It’s with a heavy heart and after a lot of careful thought that I’m going to start calling out our current U.S. administration in areas that cause me concern.  I’m not talking about things that I think will affect me personally and make my life inconvenient.  I’m talking about language, policies, modes of thinking and acting that seem to have a morally corrupt bent to them.  When I say morally corrupt, I’m speaking from a Christian perspective which adheres to two central teachings which guide my life: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself (see Matt. 22:36-40).  The things that I’ve witnessed thus far in our current leader are so far from Jesus’ simple but profound mandate to let love guide your actions, that they really and truly scare me.  I would say there is a distinct lack of love in our leaders’ heart, which finds its way into his policies, as well.

You may say, what do you know about moral right or wrong?  Why should I listen to you?  To that I would answer, won’t you at least entertain what I have to say?  I’m not asking you to agree with me–but let my thoughts give you another perspective to ponder.

From the time I was a child, I’ve been fascinated with the world’s injustices.  Do you know any young children who choose to study the Holocaust, slavery, genocide?  I was that child.  I think I studied those things because God put something in my heart that wanted to understand justice; that wanted to imagine what it’s like for people to be hated and killed because of a genetic trait or ethnic heritage; to see what evil can be committed that really only starts with an idea.  I thank God that he put that desire to learn in me and I feel privileged to be able to warn people about the power of unchecked and unchallenged ideas, thoughts, speech, and ultimately actions.

I don’t know what direction I’ll be taking with upcoming posts–there is a whole wealth of information and historical examples that I could delve into.  Maybe the first post should be about racism–how to define it, and why it persists despite a long history of its awful consequences all across our world.  I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

♫ The Waiting is the Hardest Part ♫

There has been a fair bit of strangeness going on since my last post.  We’ve had some interactions with our house’s occupants which made us believe they wouldn’t vacate willingly.  When we got a call one day from their lawyer (surprise!), we were really concerned.  I decided that I should drive down and attend a free landlord training class which the city hosts monthly.  I found out about the eviction process and decided that if we end up having to go that route, we’re going to need help.  Since our circumstances are somewhat unique and we don’t understand the law in that area, it would be best to have someone helping us who knows what they’re doing.  I met with a lawyer who has plenty of experience with landlord/tenant issues and he helped me figure out several things:

  1. How exactly to classify the people living in our house and what their rights are.
  2. What our rights are.
  3. How much time they have to find a new place to live.

He drafted a letter and sent it for us, notifying them of the date they should move out by.  Good thing, too–we had been wrong about the date.  She actually had nearly an extra three weeks!

Lessons learned from this experience:

  • Living in an urban setting, you have to temper your “niceness” with wisdom and discernment or you will be taken advantage of.  You must set boundaries for the well-being of yourself and those in your care.
  • Sometimes we are going to have to the bearers of bad news.  If we can’t handle that, we have no business moving to the inner city.
  • It’s a good thing to get help from an expert when you don’t have a clue about what’s going on.
  • When it comes to housing in the inner city, it is a jungle.

So–lots of lessons learned–none of them fun!

Prayer Requests:

  • healing & financial provision for the mother of a teen we have gotten to know — she’s battling stage 4 cancer
  • that the current occupants of our home wouldn’t trash it
  • that the tenants would leave willingly and in a timely manner & find suitable housing
  • that we would continue to have patience & find things to do while we wait

We closed on a house!

We closed on the house a few days ago and were able to finally see the inside of it a couple of days after that.  We went through it while the current occupants were still there, some still sleeping.  Our escort through the house was a very obviously unhappy man which made for an uncomfortable and awkward tour.  We weren’t able to be excited or talk about our new house because the man was rolling his eyes and sneering at everything our realtor said.  Did I mention it’s the former owners still living there–rent-free for a year and a half?  They’ve had a sweet set-up and I can see why they wouldn’t want to leave.

I can understand that they wouldn’t want to leave even though their house was foreclosed on.  It was probably a life-long dream of theirs to own a home.  I don’t know the circumstances surrounding why they lost the house or why they didn’t save up money or look for an apartment in a year and a half.  The unfortunate truth is that we own the home, the city tells us we have to occupy it, and we don’t have the money to buy a house and let someone else live in it for free.  I had to call and tell them that we now own the house and that we have to move in, so we expect them to be out by a certain date.  I was shaking and had a quavery voice while we were talking, and it continued to shake me up after the conversation was over.  I never wanted to be the person who kicked somebody out of their home.  But right now the role of the “bad guy” has fallen in my lap.  How we’ve wished that the city would have handled this in the time that they owned the house.

So now we have to interact with the current occupants and the property as if we were landlords.  They don’t have our permission to be there, but until we can get them out, there are certain rules we have to follow.  This includes giving them adequate notice of things like when we’re going to enter the house, that we need a copy of the keys, when we expect them to be out, etc.  If they don’t cooperate in leaving the house, we’ll have to go through the eviction process.  I’m hoping it doesn’t go that far.  Just last night I started entertaining the idea that this is our house and trying to envision ourselves living there.  It’s hard to think of it as real with someone else living there who doesn’t want to leave.

Our current short-term goal is to get a set of keys for the house, either from the tenants or by having a lock changed and giving them a copy of the new key.  We have to be able to access the property in case of an emergency and for maintenance.

I’ve joked with my husband that it seems like the city is welcoming us with open arms–right into the midst of its major housing issues.  There’s no honeymoon period–we’re going straight into reality in this new city we’ll be calling home.

On another depressing note, we had to have one of our cats put down on Monday.  She was only nine years old, but she had a large growth in her abdomen and fluid in her lungs.  She was definitely suffering.  The kids took it kind of hard, but we had previously talked about getting another kitten when we move into our new house, so that gives them something positive to focus on.

Prayer Requests:

  • healing for the son of fellow churchgoers — he’s in the hospital in very serious condition
  • continued health for another church friend who is frequently in and out of the hospital
  • resources for a friend to get a vehicle — hers died and she needs one to get to work
  • that the kids would be able to cope with another delay — our lives are on hold

The young people I’m leaving behind…

heart-hand

I just finished writing a series of personal letters to the special young people in my life whom I will be leaving behind when we move.  We lived in our previous home for over six years and in that time I had the privilege of watching small children grow into bigger ones at church.  I invested in the lives of children and teens alike by teaching Sunday School (and being the sort of resident Mom in our children’s ministry), teaching and serving alongside teens, and helping out at youth group.  These relationships have spanned years and it’s hard to think about leaving these kids, preteens and teens behind.

Reminiscing about those times, I feel like it’s what God put me on this earth to do.  No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m drawn to young people instinctively and can’t help but build relationships with them.  I enjoy learning about life and God with them; introducing ideas to them; helping them grasp new concepts; investing in them relationally/spiritually/emotionally, and just having fun with them.

I feel like I need to say a special goodbye to these young people.  As someone who has sought to cultivate meaningful relationships with them and be a steady adult in their life, I feel like they need an explanation from me.  I also wanted to remind them that they are important to me, that we can stay in touch if they want, to encourage them in their relationship with God, and appreciate who they are.  They need to know that I will miss them and that I valued the good times that we spent together.

For some reason, God has seen fit to send a lot of amazing kids into my life.  I’ve tried to be a positive influence in their lives for the time we’ve had together and I hope that God will use those seeds in the future.  I hope for all the best for these young people and will miss them tremendously!

I cried over each letter as I remembered the shared memories over the years, the laughs, the silly and the serious times.  It makes me feel grieved to see an end to those regular relationships.  I know that there will be other young people to invest in on a regular basis in my future, but right now I’m mourning the ones that I’m losing.

“They embraced in parting. There were tears in the merchant’s eyes:
“I do not like parting.”
“Life consists of partings,” said Arseny. “But you can rejoice more fully in companionship when you remember that.”

Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus

Guess When We’ll Move In!

Since we don’t know when we’ll be able to move in, we decided to have a bit of fun with it.  Each of our family members chose a date between February 15 and the end of April as their guess for when we’ll move in.  The family member who gets closest to the date gets to decide where we have our celebration meal.

We’re letting you in on the fun, too!  Take the survey below to guess when we’ll move in and the person closest to the date will be sent a small prize.  That’s it!  Why not take lemons and make lemonade, you know?

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero

ehs-resources

This post contains affiliate links.

Book: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Devotional: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day: A 40-Day Journey with the Daily Office

Workbook: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook

DVD: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality DVD Study

It’s been a couple of years since I went through this book with a group of women at church.  One of the ladies in our group recommended it and we thought, Hey why not?  Oh boy, were we in for a surprise.  This ain’t no light reading!

Each week we read from the chapter book and filled in the workbook pages at home.  There was also a daily devotional to read.  When we had our weekly gathering, we shared insights we had gained from the book, emotions we were struggling with, workbook answers and insights into the topic we were focusing on that week, and generally encouraged one another.  There is also an eight-week DVD with short video sessions that you can watch.

Oh mylanta–only engage in this study if you want to keep it real!  I mean really real.  We all ended up crying at some point, sometimes full on weeping.  Crying and weeping was also a part of the process that we went through at home.  And don’t even get me started on the issues from your past which it brings up.  In our discussions we talked about divorce, job issues, death, sexual abuse, anger issues, difficulties with our children, marriage difficulties, and several other topics, as well.  Anything and everything that messes you up emotionally comes up in this study.

I know that I’m not painting a pretty picture, but this is honestly the best study I’ve ever done.  And it’s one that I’m sure I would benefit from by going through again in the future.  Prior to this study, I had never been taught how to identify and deal with my emotions.  Up until that point in my adult life I felt like I was at the mercy of my past, my current circumstances, and my emotions.  This study helped me to identify what I was feeling and why; how those feelings were affecting my present behavior; that I had a choice in how to respond to and deal with my emotions; and to let go of the things that were out of my control.  I had a lot of built up anger towards my husband and I realized that it was being misdirected and leaking out in many other areas of my life.  I learned to be more assertive, to state my opinions and feelings in an objective manner, and to strive for more measured and healthy responses to my husband.

The study also made me own my own feelings and reactions, while simultaneously realizing that I’m surrounded by people whose choices have an impact on me.  I need to let others own their behavior and I have a choice about how to respond.  It helped me not to internalize and take other peoples’ behavioral choices personally.  I also gained great insight into the complexity of feelings.  I can never truly know the complete motivation behind someone else’s actions and emotional responses.  There are so many things in their life that I’ll never know about, which shape who they are.  If I have to interact with someone whose behavior bugs me, one of the best things I can do for them is help them see that they don’t have to be ruled by their emotions.

If there were one study that I would choose to go through with everyone I met, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality would be it.  My own emotional health has been tremendously improved by it; I’ve seen friends grow by leaps and bounds; and it creates an entire culture of emotional vulnerability and honesty.  Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

In case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this book.  I look forward to sharing it with our new church family–wherever that may be.  I think it’s also a great resource for young people who need a bit of help learning how to deal with their emotions.

Miscarriage

It was several years ago now that I had a miscarriage over the Christmas season.  My husband and I found out before Christmas that I was pregnant, but right away there were signs that something wasn’t right.  We were definitely worried.  After Christmas we went in to check if the baby was alright and discovered that I had had a miscarriage.  Of course we were both sad and disillusioned.

It seemed almost a mercy that we had only one week to get used to the idea before learning that we wouldn’t be having the baby after all.  I think it would have been more difficult if we had known longer.  Still, it’s not an easy thing to deal with.

I have several friends who have experienced either a miscarriage or stillbirth.  As a parent, you wonder what your child would have looked like; what their personality would have been; what their interests would be.  You think about the milestones of life that you are missing out on.  You wonder what it would be like if they were a part of your daily life.

And you wonder why it happened.  Why does God allow babies to die inside their mothers?

Needless to say, I had a hard time accepting the situation.  That is, until one day…

I was taking a shower and in the moment I blinked my eyes, I had a vision.  I know it sounds weird, but I saw this image as clear as day and it only lasted a second.  In this vision I was standing across from Jesus and I handed my baby to Him.  I felt joy, relief, and peace because I had been worried about what had happened to my baby.  Now I knew that Jesus was taking care of my child.  That was okay with me because I knew that He would do a better job than I ever could, and my child wouldn’t have to experience a lot of the hurts of this world.  I look forward to the day we’ll be reunited, when Jesus will introduce me to my child.

If you’re a woman who has experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, I hope this brings a bit of hope to your heart.  Maybe you wonder whether you’ll ever see your child again.  I believe that God has a place in His heart and home for every child, yours included.

Offer Accepted!

Yes, you read it right–they accepted our offer on the latest house!  When I made the announcement to the kids they responded with whoops, hollers, hoorays and screams.  Can we say excited?  😉  It doesn’t even seem real right now.

We may not be able to move into the house until mid-March, depending on how things go with the lady who is living there right now.  The city says we have to live there (it was only open to owner-occupants), but she may not be very willing to find a new place.  I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens.

The house has a parking slab in the back and virtually no yard, so we will have to go to the park when the kids need to blow off steam.  It’s also very close to a high school, and our realtor told us that during the high schoolers’ lunch break the street is lined with food trucks.  I think I might have to go out there and grab some lunch, too!

That’s all for now.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel of waiting!

 

Is this number 4 or 5?

We are on either our fourth or fifth house offer right now.  We’ve lost count.  We’ve also lost a fair bit of hope, I’d say.  Our family is operating under a cloud of anxiety, apathy, and discouragement.  Except for the two youngest–they seem to be weathering the situation fairly well.  Oh, to be young and oblivious!

Our current offer is on a city-owned property–a foreclosure.  It has no yard (not a plus!) and a parking slab in back.  I don’t know if a garage could be built back there.  If we did get the house, the lady who is living there would get a notice that she has 30 days to move out.  (The city says the house must be owner-occupied and converted back to a single family dwelling.)  We’re not sure how she will take it and hope that she won’t take it out on the house by busting stuff up.  So…we’re not 100% in love with this house, but we feel like our options are pretty limited right now.  I’m praying that if this isn’t the right house for us, that God will prevent it from working out.  Oh yeah, did I say that this is the house that our realtor toured, but we’ve never even set foot inside it?  Sounds like the set-up for a comedy of errors, doesn’t it?

Besides that, we’re trying to get the kids back into some semblance of normal homeschooling, while having virtually all of our supplies packed away in storage.  Yeah, it isn’t easy.  A couple of the kids have been chomping at the bit to dive back into school.

As you can probably guess, our kids are bored out of their minds.  Their belongings are in storage; they’re trying to keep entertained in someone else’s house; the weather doesn’t permit them to go outside very much; socially they’ve been uprooted.  They don’t have a lot going for them right now.  We’ve especially noticed the effect this situation has had on our 12-year-old.  He’s become bored, apathetic, anxious.  What we all need is some stability, a normal routine, and familiar surroundings.  We need a home, but as far as we can tell that isn’t even on the radar.  It would be nice to know one way or the other about this current offer.  We were assured it would take only a couple of days to get an answer, but that has turned into a week.  One more week of waiting in what seems to be an endless and cruel trick of the universe.  Waiting is pretty much all we’ve been doing for the past 2 1/2 months.

Sometimes I think about all of the things I miss, but I try to follow that up with things that I’m thankful for.  Things could always be worse.

Things I miss:

  • my own functioning kitchen and pantry
  • the use of craft & homeschool supplies
  • the ability to control how comforting & inviting my home is
  • a yard for the kids to play in
  • a mattress & being able to sleep next to my husband
  • being able to have people over for a visit
  • a warm place to sleep
  • a comfortable environment for our cats
  • a functioning home where my kids can live normal lives

Things I’m thankful for:

  • 2 running vehicles
  • a space heater
  • that we didn’t have to get rid of our cats
  • family who is willing to let us stay as long as we need to
  • tea (my daily stress reliever)
  • good health
  • the time I’ve gotten to spend with extended family
  • chickadees & cardinals
  • that my dad had a successful surgery
  • enough food to eat
  • that we’re not out homeless on the street in winter