I've been braving the beauty "parlor" near my house for a while now, but today I took it to the next level. I got the "layered haircut." There are plenty of Western-style salons in the city, but this one is just a short walk away and quite a bit more economical. I felt a little nervous. Haircuts seem a precarious thing to explain in a foreign tongue. Thankfully, the hand motions did a lot of communicating. When I asked for the layered look, she moved me to a different stool...with no mirror. I assume this was so the effect would be even more dramatic when my new 'do was revealed.
"Gratitude, laughter, joy, faith, obedience – these are not seasonal things that should make short appearances in a Christian home. These are year round crops and your home ought to be the perfect environment for them. But many of us have gotten caught up in the impression that these things are flowers that we want to get so we can put them in a vase on the mantle. The truth is our job as christian wives and mothers is the job of faithfulness. The job of trusting God and rolling our sleeves up. Our work is in a farm that grows the flowers, not with the woman who waits for a delivery at the door. God gave us soil. He gave us oh so much fertilizer. He gives us water and sun and He gives us the seeds. But the work is for us to do. When we are faithful these flowers surround us and sometimes this beauty is so fragrant and so rich that it threatens to overwhelm us. And sometimes it is just rows and rows of soil and seeds, and the sky is dark, and the day is long. Our lives aren’t supposed to be either all flowers beautifully arranged or all manure piles waiting to go in. We are to know our way around it all, and be faithful in our work around it all. When we pursue obedience, God will give us the increase."
1. This week was Republic Day. The fanfare in our complex was complete with loud patriotic music at 7:30am and a flag raising ceremony. One of the things I absolutely love about the people here is the true respect they show for the development of their nation. Their independence is recent enough that the grandparents remember a different time. There is something immensely moving to me about watching my neighbors sing their national anthem. God bless this land.
2. While Silas was in the village with Dad, Jude and I had an all out mother-son fun day. We made crafts galore, had lunch with a friend, and wandered outside without chasing any runaway brothers. As a result of our lunch at a friend's, Jude's latest skill includes shelling peas. You know I buy frozen.
3. We are totally in love with Crayola's Crystal Effect Window markers. We're talking hours (or at least hours in toddler time) of fun. Our big glass doors are an art project every day.
4. When we got in the elevator this morning, I really hoped no one stopped it to try to get on with us. Maximum Capacity: 8-10 South Asians or 1 mom, 2 kids, an umbrella, stroller, and bicycle.
Hubs and I had a little date night yesterday to a new restaurant in town called Thea. It's a full fledged steak house that just won the award for Best European Eatery in the city. We loved it! Definitely a repeat. They even had fried mozzarella and zucchini balls.
There are some serious perks to living in a big asian city!
After my post on combating mom-brain, a friend asked for a few of my favorite ipod finds of late. This is for you, Chelsea:) If you're looking for a starting place, these are some names that I go to often. I admit that I rarely purchase sermons...mainly because it's just not in our budget. These are some good resources that I've found for free.
1. Gordon Conwell very graciously shared a number of Elisabeth Elliot seminars on itunes. I think this entire collection is fantastic and worth listening to more than once! Here is a link to one calledBlessed Inconveniences.
2. Timothy Keller at Redeemer Pres in NYC has some fantastic podcasts. They are usually just a little over 30 minutes, which is perfect for my window of opportunity most of the time. His talk on Exclusivity has been extremely helpful for me in our current situation. He's a thinker. Some of you Baptists might not agree on every jot and tiddle with him, but he's such a phenomenal thinker I highly recommend him to you even so.
3. When we lived in Louisville, we attended Immanuel Baptist Church under the leadership of Ryan Fullerton. He remains in my mind as one of the most anointed preachers I've ever heard. There's a wide collection of fine material on the church website. Of late, at the recommendation of a friend, I have been listening to his current series on Deuteronomy. It is well worth your attention. He's not easy listening, but worth the time and spiritual work it takes to allow conviction, repentance and abundant grace to fall as you submit to the Word.
4. I listen almost daily to the Focus on the Family podcast. I just find it really helpful in this season of life to be affirmed in my primary role as a wife and mother. These are definitely not sermons, but I have found myself greatly encouraged and edified by tuning in daily. Since they are a little less intense, this is usually in my ears while I'm cooking.
5. Most weeks I listen to several of Albert Mohler's current event podcasts and find it helpful in staying attuned to the cultural and moral shifts that are taking place in the US, and consequently around the world.
6. Of course, there are the usuals also that I gravitate towards when I want something topical or a series: John Piper, David Platt, and Mark Dever. Piper's biographies are especially favorites.
7. Carolyn Mahaney also has a great series on Titus 2 that is available here. I find her very helpful in thinking through a Biblical perspective on womanhood and practical ways to work that out in my daily life.
So that may have been more than you wanted to know! Just some good starting places. Feel free to link a comment if you have some other suggestions. I am always eager to find good resources. Hope these are helpful to a few of you!
After a break of several weeks from the holidays, our trip to the Maldives, and my surgery, tomorrow morning will find me back in language class. I confess I never thought I'd say this, but I'm excited. Language and I have had a love-hate relationship from the beginning. Not really because I didn't want to learn an obscure asian dialect, but because it just seemed to always be hanging over my head, adding pressure to an already stressful season. My schedule is a little bit more laid back it was in those first days of study though, and my comprehension a bit more. God has also continued to work in my heart about this little area in my life.
Sometimes I hear moms talk about this season with young kids as a stage of mush-brain. Let's be honest, it's not really that intellectually stimulating to hang out with a 2 year old constantly. One of the ways I've been giving thanks for language learning lately is the way it exercises my otherwise mushy mom brain. I really believe it's staved boredom in many ways for me during this season. It got my wheels turning...and I thought I'd share a little list here on the blog of ways to cultivate my mind this year.
7 Ways To Combat Mom Brain
1. Learn a new language. Ok. Maybe you don't really have a lot of need for this in your life. But learn something new. An art form, a subject you can easily research during nap time, etc. Be proactive about exercising your brain.
2. Read world news. I have a little soap box about most US news stations. They tend to highlight local and national stories of moderate importance over world head lines. This urks me. Read BBC...or at the very least, click on the World page of your regular news site. This is a big world. Read about what's happening in Syria before you click on the latest shock story from down the street.
3. Listen while you work. There are pockets of quiet in my day, even with two young kids. When we play outside, they don't usually want to talk to me. I need to be hands free and have attention their way, but if I have a good sermon or podcast in my ears, they hardly notice. If they do, I can explain what I'm listening to and why. I've found this takes some forethought. I only have so much time to listen, so I'm pretty narrow in what I choose. It takes time to load my little ipod so it's ready when I have a moment of quiet doing the dishes or on the playground. It's worth it.
4. Read a book. Not a magazine or web article or blog:) Read an actual book, preferably a classic. There was a very interesting study done about the ways that forgoing literature is impacting young people. One of the things they found: reading good fiction helps you see things from a different perspective. Youth who don't every read books have trouble imagining themselves in any situation other than their own. It might be a good thing to read a story about someone in a different season of time and life. There are lots of other reasons too. This can take some work when you're tired at the end of the day. Sometimes I need to remind myself that Facebook isn't really feeding my mind, close the computer, and pick up something better.
5. Talk about a topic other than your children. I don't think I really need to expound on this, do I? Guilty : but working on it.
6. Explore with your children. Jude is at the stage of incessant whys. It really is almost without pause. My answers are very frequently answered by another form of why about the answer. So sometimes I need to research with him more. I can't remember that 7th grade science lesson on leaves. I need to review. It's a good thing to be inquisitive. I want to learn to be a little more so myself.
7. Study the Bible. Make time for prayer. One of the treasures of the past few weeks has been unhurried mornings. I've had more time for study and prayer. The impact on my life has been tremendous. This is at the top of my list this year. Nothing will grow deeper fruit and more lasting character.
Here's to another year of language study and so much more!
Somewhere around late high school I stumbled across an old tape (yes, a tape) of Florence Littauer's testimony followed by a brief message on the power of an encouraging word. I must have listened to it a dozen times. Ever since, the stories have remained in my mind as powerful examples of the power of words to build up or tear down.
I usually tune into a Focus on the Family daily podcast each afternoon while I do a few things around the house. I was delighted to recently hear a re-airing of her talk on giving "silver boxes" to others with your words. I've listened to it twice already:) I think you'll like it.
Just in case someone out there wants a few last details on the recovery, here's a follow up post on last week's big operation. I had my staples removed today and all seems to be on the up and up. I'm hoping this chapter closes soon, necessitating nothing more on the subject:)
The past week was harder than I expected. And, after all, expectations are (almost) everything. In hindsight, it was a pretty normative first week after an abdominal surgery. My doctor was a bit of an optimist and not much on giving post-op instructions. When I told him the day after surgery that I was still having some pain from the 4 incisions and 8 staples in my stomach, he disagreed with me. Yes, he did. He informed me that it wasn't pain, just a little discomfort. When I asked him about the recovery, he told me I would be back to normal within a day. Then he prescribed me some pain pills. So maybe I've learned a few lessons about asian doctors this week.
Thus, I was thrust into the world of internet medical research. Webmd is not the best habit I've developed in our jaunt overseas.
From there and other sources I began to discover that it's actually ok to take a week or two to recover. And I had some deep insight about my life. It said "light activity" may be resumed in 1-2 weeks. I didn't realize until this week that not many parts of my day really qualify as "light activity." Wrestling a 20+lb kid into the stroller, chasing a runaway toddler, walking home from the store with groceries, driving a stick shift car through rugged terrain...they just don't qualify.
I should have thought of that before.
So here's what happened when my expectations came crashing down. My husband cancelled meetings and hoisted me from couch to bed and wrestled our boys. My friends, so many, brought meals and offered a helping hand. Flowers were sent, phone calls forthcoming. My neighbors kindly inquired about my health, recommending every home remedy under the sun. And I sat on the couch while the community around me helped, and helped and helped some more.
At the center of it all was David. I knew that I was married to a servant hearted man. I've known that since the day I married him. But this week, he's taken it to a different level and it was beautiful to watch. David has been so steadfastly helpful, encouraging and sacrificial...I can't even put my heart gratitude toward him into words. It was some of the most Christ-like service I've ever seen. I love that man.
I'm glad I wasn't on my own this week.
My body may move on from this in another week or two, and I am glad. But I hope my heart remembers long and with grateful joy the community God has given to me. I don't want to recover from that. We were made for life together.
An immobile mamma coupled with a few days off school this week for the Sankranti holiday menas we've been invading the craft closet a bit more lately. One of my goals with Jude this year is to do at least a craft project or two every time he has a break from preschool. So far, he's all on board.
Yesterday, we made glue sun catchers in a to-go cup lid. This morning we broke out a cardboard car I bought for them at Christmas. It's a hit. In lieu of that much coloring, we opted for sticker decor.
Last week, we made a paper plate rendition of The Cat in the Hat. Jude loved it. It was so much easier than I thought, 20 minutes tops. Just a stiff, deep rimmed paper plate and some red card stock with white strips glued to it.
Here's my favorite from Christmas break. Yes, we did it after Christmas. I just went ahead and framed it so it would be ready to display next year! Love the way it turned out.
Note that none of these ideas are my own...I've been scouring the blogs of craftier women for inspiration. I'll try to do better in coming days about linking the sites where I find our craft projects so you'll have more full instructions should you want to try them out!
My boys have been taking care of me. And of one another. On Day Two of Daddy-rule, Silas flipped over the swing on the playground. It gave a very daddy's in charge kind of look. They've been wrestling and riding bikes and doing all sorts of manly activities.
They've also been waiting on me without fail. These guys are sweet. I mean sweet. They're learning from their dad how to take care of a sick momma. Jude brought me a glass of water the first night I was home from the hospital. When I took a sip, he exclaimed "Now, THAT is what I like to SEE, Momma!" If you've ever been around David when he's in a drink-more-water-frenzy, you'll recognize that as a word for word quotation.
I'm on Day Five post-surgery and I confess I hoped to be a bit more normal by now. It's been slower and a bit more painful than I anticipated. The surgery was a little more intense than we thought it would be. But I am making progress.
Today I am having surgery. There are a few little tears in my abdominal wall, most likely from that 10lb 15oz baby I had way back when. This wasn't exactly what I had planned for 2014.
I admit that it makes me nervous. It would make me nervous anywhere, but in Asia, it's at a different level. This should be a small surgery with a short recovery, but to be honest, I've been pushing back worry. I've been reading and thinking on Psalm 139 a lot over the past week. Holding onto those lines about God's careful fashion of our bodies. His constant care over our days. His book where every single moment is written.
He knows my frame.
A friend, a sister I've seen made beautiful by suffering, sent me a quote this week by Spurgeon:
Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.
She followed it with this line: Divine love is following you all the days of your life, friend. Divine love is following me. I'll walk forward in that. He knows my frame.
We are back in the land of high-speed internet now, so here's a photo overload for the grandparents and aunts. We got in bed at 2am this morning after a late night flight, and the laundry is already disappearing bit by bit. It was great to have a break, and now it's good to be back in our own little home. Distance made the heart grow fonder.
We have been on vacation, sort of. Every six months, we are required to leave the country. The closest, cheapest options happen to be island coastlines. For this, we are grateful. Our last trip to the Maldives was over a religious holiday in the off season for tourism. The island we stayed on was almost deserted. The quiet was exactly what we needed. It wasn't perfect, but time erodes the memory a bit, right? We decided to return again this time. We managed to get the very last deal on cheap flights. Booked a hotel with an ocean view, across the street from that quiet, deserted beach. And tried to keep our expectations realistic. But it didn't work. We arrived to a much more crowded, dirty, island with a room that was so small David or I had to back up so the other could get to the suitcase. The pack and play just barely fit inside the doorway and Jude slept on the marble floor with a towel or two underneath. The headboard sported mildew stains from the ocean view. It was so overwhelming that I couldn't even let the kids play on the bed until I had covered it with a spare sheet. But the view, well, the view was amazing.
The reality is that even if you live overseas, it's still pretty crazy hard to travel internationally with toddlers. It just is.
Traveling internationally on a slim budget is even harder.
You know I try to keep it real around here, so anytime I'm posting island paradise pictures, I feel the need to balance it in your mind and my memory. There's no magic that takes over for a couple who's been around the world a time or two. International travel is wild and dirty and just plain hard sometimes. I read a fantastic quote in the airport. A truth to share.
The world is a book, and those who never travel read only one page. Augustine
It helped me remember why I love to travel. This is an adventure well worth a few inconveniences. Crowded hotel rooms and busy streets or not, it's worth it. These are beautiful days, where I'm reading beautiful lines in that book of the world. God has created glories on a thousand shores. Finding a view is worth the effort.
We're in the Maldives again. We sure do love renewing our visas:) Last time we were here David didn't get to go on a dive because the trip was cancelled. He's trying to keep his PADI certificate in better practice. So we scheduled the dive for day 1 this time! He said it was fantastic! The boys and I suffered through a morning at the beach and playground while he was gone. Here are a few pictures of our first day.
Twenty-thirteen didn't turn out exactly like we'd planned. There were some unexpected blessings. Some precious friendships and beautiful experiences that seemed to break in where we least expected. There were some sorrows we hadn't anticipated, brokenness that caught us off guard. There were some cultural adjustments that made their way back in just when we thought they were finished. There were moments with our boys that are seared in my heart, of laughter erupting into daily life and the delight of discovery peering around commonplace turns.
I've been thinking about time a little this week, I suppose in anticipation of New Year's. I read those ancient words by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes and they seemed to startle me with the reminder that time is a season marker for real life as well as a calendar.
There is a time to weep,
a time to laugh.
There is a time to seek,
a time to lose.
There is a time to keep silence,
a time to speak.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
I don't always know what time it is, literally and figuratively. And one of the areas that I battle anxiety most in is embracing the unknown seasons. This coming year seems filled with a lot of unknowns in our world. It is very possible that even what I think will happen, will not. And perhaps the things that I don't want to happen, will. There is a time for everything. Life includes the weeping, losing, and tearing alongside the laughing and dancing. I want to hold my plans more loosely this year, in the peaceful knowledge that these days, these times, were written in His book long before I even began. This is the time to wait.
Just after those famous lines in Ecclesiastes is another line tucked inside the passage.
He has put eternity into the heart of man....
There's a reason why I ache with the speed and change of these years. The rapid pace my boys are growing into little men. The way that every opportunity seems to slip into a rapid advance of time.
I was made for eternity.
The place where time is not. Where now is forever and a moment is unending. I wasn't created to celebrate ceaseless New Year's Days. To go on year after year marking seasons and watching a clock. I was made to live inside of the eternal, the timeless. I know that instinctively.
May I hold them side by side a bit more this year: The time God has given for each season, that He is making beautiful. And the eternal that I wait for with an ache I was born to carry.