Sunday, December 20, 2009
In March, we moved to Champaign-Urbana, IL to start Redeemer Church. For many reasons, one of our main concerns as we considered planting a church was having a team to labor alongside us. The Lord not only provided a team, but He gave us a FANTASTIC group of people with whom we could join efforts and just walk through life. We give thanks to God on a daily basis for these people!
We bought our first house in March. Because of the state of the economy, we were able to buy a home that is not only big enough for us, but it has allowed us to host quite a few guests. I had been wondering if we would ever use as many bath towels as we had accumulated... and the answer is that indeed, we would! How exciting to not only have more space but to be able to share it with others! As if that wasn't enough, we have amazing neighbors who have been such a blessing to us as we've gotten settled!
Our move from Louisville to Urbana has brought so many blessings, but it has also been challenging. One of the hardest days I had was the day that Ladan finally mustered up the courage to go introduce himself to some kids down the street, and they told him that they were having a private party and would have to play "later". He cried. A lot. He just wanted his friends from Louisville. Then I cried with him. It was so hard to watch him go through this! There are tons of kids in our neighborhood, but it seems that their schedules are so packed with school and extracurriculars that they are very rarely available to play. We prayed together and thanked God for being here with us. A few weeks later, it was the birthday of one of his super-great friends back in Louisville. So we opened his window, he stuck his head out, and he screamed "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DANIEL!" at the top of his lungs... and then wondered how long it would be before Daniel could hear the message.
One thing that both our kids have learned through this transition is that your friends do not all have to be exactly like you. You can have friends who are your age, but you can also have dear friends who are VERY different in age, stage of life, gifting, financial status, etc. It didn't take long before the boys started cheering when they heard that our friends were coming over--our adult friends. And they called them their friends too. The Lord had provided friends for them, but only a few of them were their age. It definitely didn't look like what they had expected or originally hoped for, but they love these people more than they had expected or originally hoped for! They still talk regularly about their friends in Louisville, but it's with less heartache and more anticipation as they look forward to when they might get to see them again.
Later in the year we started homeschooling Ladan and joined a homeschool co-op in town. On Thursday mornings, they go for their kindergarten and toddler classes and get to hang out with lots of kids their own ages. This has also been a fantastic opportunity for me to meet some other women in town and seems to have been very helpful as we make connections with people and resources here. I have been very encouraged by the ladies I've met!
Chet graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in May with his Master of Divinity degree. What an accomplishment!!! Seminary was a learning experience for all of us, not just for Chet. We will be forever grateful to the Lord for the training, discipleship, and genuine care that we experienced during our time in Louisville at Southern and especially at Clifton Baptist Church!
When we left Louisville, Chet also got to QUIT WORKING AT UPS!!!!!!! Can you join me in saying WOOOOOHOOOO!?! He did take a part-time job at the YMCA here, and his hours cause him to miss a bit of sleep. However, he thoroughly enjoys the people he works with and all of the members who come in to exercise. He has the early-morning shift, so he has been able to enjoy seeing all the "regulars" of the older generations. They are really fun and give him plenty of opportunities to show off pictures of the kids!
August 6 was the day that hot pink stars went flashing all around us as Claire Ellise made her entry into the world! Oh my goodness! What a blessing this little girl has been to our family! There's something pretty amazing about seeing a daddy with his little girl. And there's something equally amazing about watching two little boys love on their baby sister! Ladan and Gabe to this day cannot walk past Claire without giving her at least one hug and kiss. They call her "sweetie", tell her she's cute, and run to her when she cries. They protect her. They thank God for her when they pray at night. They adore her... even when she throws up all over them. They LOVE her! And I love her! Did I mention that hot pink is pretty great?
Ladan turned 5 in June. He learned to read fairly well by then and has gotten better and better throughout the year. Last week he sounded out the words "Appomattox" and "Manassas" in his reader about the Civil War. What fun to see his face light up when he read them correctly! He's also becoming quite the mathematician. Homeschooling is a little bit chaotic somedays, but I'm so thankful that we made the decision to educate him this way this year. Not only is he learning all kinds of things, but Gabe is benefiting as well. Ladan is a servant at heart and is a life-saver to me! He's still a sports fanatic and dreams about the day when he can play football and baseball on real teams.
Gabe turned 3 in September. This kid has some spunk! He has been aptly described as "exuberant". To date, I don't think there's ever been a time when we've wondered how he has felt about something. He has been through his fair share of changes this year. In addition to everything mentioned above, Gabe moved to a big bed, learned to use the potty, moved into a room with Ladan, and gave up his place as the baby of the family. We're still working on getting him to give up the pacifier when he sleeps. One thing at a time. He's learned his letters and their sounds and is beginning to be able to determine what letter words begin with. He gets really excited about the small things and greets me every morning with the sweetest "Hi, Mom-mom!" you've ever heard. A couple weeks ago, he was playing on the floor with Claire sweetly saying, "Jesus loves Claire!" He is persistent in almost every way... when he's trying something new, when he wants something, and when he's disobeying. He'll probably grow up to be some sort of Washington lobbyist or something. That is, if we can break his persistence to disobey and help him maintain it in the other areas. May the Lord be merciful to help us!
Planting a church has definitely been an adventure for us! Throughout the 9 1/2 months we've been here, we have been challenged in ways that we never expected. Our marriage has been stretched. We have been stretched as parents. We have taken on roles we may never have otherwise chosen, and we're learning new things all the time.
Mostly, we have learned so many new applications of the Gospel that we can't possibly count them. We have been challenged to extend and receive grace more freely and more deeply. The fact that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross covers our many sins is more and more precious to us daily. It is our only purpose for being here, and it's our motivation to keep going. It has changed and continues to transform us, and our prayer is that the Lord will somehow use us to share the richness of His mercy and love with others... and that there will be many who BELIEVE!
As we reflect on this year, it is clear that we were not alone. Our heavenly Father was with us every step of the way providing everything we needed. Through growth, joy, excitement, trial, conflict, restoration, disappointment, accomplishment and transition, we have been SO BLESSED! The Lord is our strength and our song indeed!
Friday, November 6, 2009
[On the way home from Kids' Night at the Smiths']
Ladan: Mom, I'm kind of hungry. I think I need a snack before I go to bed.
Me: Okay. Maybe we can get you some cereal when we get home.
Ladan: No. I was thinking about eating one of those twisty fruit snacks. [Referring to Clif Twisted Fruit--VERY yummy]
Me: Well, I don't think we're going to have any of those tonight. I told you when we got them that we weren't going to eat one every day. You've had one every day since we got them, so we're not going to have any tonight.
Ladan: Well, Mom, we didn't have one every day.
Me: We had one yesterday and one the day before, which is every day since we got them.
Ladan: Mom. [Read that with an "I need you to pay attention" tone] This is not a day. This is the middle of the night. We did not have one in the day, so we did not have one every day since we got them.
Me: [Laughing pretty hard but trying to keep it quiet]
Ladan: Mom, you should not be laughing at me. That makes me nervoused [yes, with an "ed" at the end]. You should stop laughing because I don't like that very much.
Me: Ladan, I like that you're five. This is fun!
[As Chet was leaving the room when the boys were going to bed]
Chet: Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. I love you. See you in the morning.
Ladan: But, Dad. There are no bugs in my bed.
Chet: Oh, that's right, Buddy. There are no bed bugs in your bed. That's just a saying. It means sleep good.
Ladan: But, Dad. There are no bed bugs.... Right?
Chet: No, there are no bed bugs. Sleep good.
A couple days ago I was talking to Chet as Ladan was quietly playing with cars on the floor. Here's how that went down...
Chet: I'm so tired today. I can't seem to wake up.
Me: I hear that. As soon as I hit the pillow last night, Claire woke up and needed something... twice.
Ladan: Why did you hit your pillow, Mom?
I love my kids! They're awesome!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Did you know that this Sunday, November 8, is Orphan Sunday?
Did you know that it is Orphan Sunday ALL OVER THE WORLD... not just in our little American corner?
Did you know that my brother and sister-in-law started an amazing ministry called His Voice for Sudan several years ago to do what they can to help care for orphans in Southern Sudan? Since they started their ministry there, they have partnered with the Sudanese people to open two orphanages housing over 190 kids, employing 84 local workers, and providing education for 220 other community children. The Lord has been so faithful to raise up godly men and women among the Sudanese to help care for and teach the children. But they need help.
Did you know that you can participate in the ministry to the people of Southern Sudan? You can pray for the leadership of His Voice for Sudan. You can pray for the children and leaders of Sudan. You can receive e-mail updates and you can follow the His Voice blog. You can financially support their ministry. You can spread the word by telling others or by having my brother come and speak at your church or other organization.
Here is a short video showing some of the beautiful faces of the kids in Sudan....
Friday, September 25, 2009
So, what have I been meditating on? In our community groups here at Redeemer, we're working through 1 John. What do we see in 1 John? The gospel. God's holiness. A reminder that our joy and our eternity rest on whether or not we believe the gospel and are being transformed to be more like Christ every day. Assurance that if we do know God and believe the gospel, we will be changed, we will have joy, and we will have eternal life. I'm writing it here like it's just that simple, and it is. At the same time, I'm sitting here looking at the words in 1 John with tears in my eyes because it's HUGE! Seriously, do you understand the weight of this? There is JOY and ETERNAL LIFE that comes with knowing God and growing in holiness! There is hell and destruction if we don't know God and grow in holiness. I want to KNOW God. I want to grow in holiness. I need to know what holy looks like.
I keep hearing the song "What Do I Know of Holy" by Addison Road on the radio, and it stirs my heart every single time. Just when I think I know who He is, I get a greater glimpse of who He is, and it brings me down to my knees. Really, what do I know of holy? More than I used to, but in reality, I know nothing. How's that for motivation to stay in the Word no matter what? Even if it's just little bits at a time that I can think about all day. In the event that someone else might be spurred on by this song, I'm posting it here. And if it's been a while since you read the book of 1 John, I'd encourage you to read it again very soon while this is fresh in your mind.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
When he doesn't like something that someone else says--like when you tell him to eat the chip in his mouth before he gets another one--he puts on his best stern face, points quickly to the stairs, and says in his best stern voice, "Go to yo' bed!" Today I told him that he wasn't going to be able to watch Tom and Jerry, and he promptly told me to go to my bed. If only I could have obeyed him! I needed a nap!
I took Claire to her one-month appointment last Friday, and she weighed 8 lbs. 8 oz. and measured 21.5 inches long. Still lighter than both the boys at birth with an extra half inch compared to their birth measurements. She's a skinny little peanut. She's growing just fine though, and the doctor didn't even mention her size as an issue at all. She had a lot of catching up to do after she lost nearly a pound in the hospital.
She's starting to lose the hair on the top of her head. We'll see if she loses the rest. She's gripping things pretty well and held her first toy today and waved it around all by herself for quite a few minutes. I can tell she's about ready to start smiling here in the next week or two. She's got these huge bright eyes when she gets excited, and today she was starting to move her mouth in the direction of a big fat grin... but it's not there quite yet.
Ladan is doing really well with school. Handwriting is not his favorite or best thing at all, but many of his lessons require quite a bit of writing practice. He's getting loads better, but we were both tired of spending so much time on this every day. So he does all the writing associated with his math every day. However, I decided to only do parts of the assignments in his phonics curriculum so that we could skip ahead to the parts where he's reading. Since he's already a reader, I felt like he wasn't being challenged in this way, was getting bored, and was getting a bit discouraged as well. According to my projections, it was going to take us through the end of October to get to read a book that he's already read on his own, which seemed crazy to me. So I'm going to rearrange the order of quite a few assignments in order to spread out the handwriting stuff and pull the reading stuff forward. It's working MUCH BETTER so far. I guess that's the cool thing about homeschooling... I can totally rearrange things to keep pressing ahead in areas where he's very strong and give him more time to work on the things where he needs more work.
I'd say that homeschooling is going very well so far. But there is not yet a pattern to our days. I'm so thankful that I didn't expect any kind of routine at this stage of Claire's life. I look forward to the day when things are just a little bit more predictable... and for now, I'm just fine with the fact that I may not get a whole lot done other than school, feeding my infant, playing with the kids, communicating with my husband, keeping the clothes and cloth diapers clean, washing dishes, buying groceries, preparing meals, paying bills, spending time with Redeemer folks, and reading the Word... oh, and sleeping occasionally.
Chet's been working like a mad man getting all manner of things prepared for when Redeemer starts having services every Sunday. We will finish up core team development by the end of October and begin weekly services on November 1. There is much to be done between now and then, but we have an excellent team, and things seem to be trucking along. While there's some work left to be done on our website, it is live now. Check it out at http://www.redeemerchurchcu.com when you get a second.
Exciting things are also happening with His Voice for Sudan, the ministry that my brother and Amber started several years ago!!!! Their blog is in transition, so they have two right now: http://www.sudanskids.blogspot.com and http://www.hisvoiceforsudan.blogspot.com.
Well, my bed is screaming my name, so I'm going to try to get there before my infant is screaming my name again.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
- Tiny baby bodies
- The nap I got to take this afternoon
- The fact that this is the easiest of the three c-section recoveries so far. I stopped taking the prescription pain medication on day 6 and have just been taking ibuprofen as needed since. Don't get me wrong. It's still not easy, but it's been so much better than the first two.
- My husband. He's been so helpful, which is a huge blessing to me!
- Chet's mom came to help us for 10 days!
- Gabe is almost completely potty-trained and will even go when we're out somewhere strange.
- Both the boys LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their baby sister! They take such good care of her!
- I've been able to lay on my side for the last couple of days when I sleep (as opposed to only being able to lay on my back). This means that when the boys come downstairs in the mornings, they can lay by me on the couch for a few minutes.
- I've lost almost 23 of the 28 pounds I gained... without doing anything except take care of our family and avoid a bunch of junk food. I do not necessarily expect that the rest will come off at the same rate or that my abs will be flat right away, but we'll see. It's not like I can exercise at this point. I'm still limiting myself to no more than two trips up and down the stairs each day, and we all know that two trips up and down the stairs is not exactly a good cardio workout. Speaking of cardio workouts, I was just telling Chet yesterday that I am so pumped that I should soon be able to walk briskly or even jog for longer distances again! I can't wait!
- Our friends here are awesome! Their help getting things done before the baby came has helped so much now that she's here!
- When Claire does that involuntary smiley thing that tiny babies do when they're just waking up or dozing off. She's so cute! I think it's the Lord's way of giving us the joy of seeing a little glimpse of what it's going to be like when they're smiling on purpose and even laughing!
- Our neighbors blessed us with a bag of really awesome stuff for Claire tonight! Our power went out in a storm this afternoon, so we were all out on the front porches hanging out when they gave it to us. Linda (the wife) cried when she got to hold Claire. She's a grandma and a neonatal nurse, so she said she can't help it.
- While we were out on the porch, the boys were running and splashing in the puddles of rain that blew up on the porch. I love watching them have so much fun in puddles. Usually I run with them, so Gabe said, "Come on, Mom! Run!" I explained that I couldn't run because my tummy hurts still. He replied, "Can you walk?" So I started walking, and he stood on the other side of the porch leaning over, clapping his hands, and saying, "Come on, Mom! Come on, Mom!" in his best encouraging voice. It was so funny!
- Our laundry is on the second floor where our bedrooms are. At first I wasn't too sure that this was superior to having it on the first level. However, I can just barely make it up and down the stairs carrying my pillow and a few other miscellaneous items... clearly making it impossible to carry baskets of clothing up and down. Needless to say, it's great to have it all right there.
- I finally get to have hot pink, lime green, orange, yellow, turqouise, and all manner of bright colors decorating a room!!!! It's not my own room, but it's a room in our home that doesn't have muted colors, and I LOVE IT! Anyone who knows me well knows that I thoroughly enjoy color and would like it everywhere. However, Chet prefers more muted shades (which I like okay, but I wouldn't choose them over bright colors)... and until we can afford new furniture and paint for our walls, we have a ton of beige everywhere in our house... but not in Claire's room. It makes me happy every time I walk past her door. I can't wait until she can use her room more!
- There were quite a few things we needed from the grocery store last night. However, after a trip to the splash park and Campus Town to get ice cream on Friday and then swimming lessons and a visit to Target on Saturday morning, I wasn't exactly up for walking through the grocery store. So we went to the store as a family, and Claire and I both took our first ride around on one of those motorized scooter carts while Chet pushed the regular cart with the boys in it. It was lots of fun to go to the store together, and we actually got everything we needed without me doubling over in pain by the end of it! I'm always blessed when Chet and I can do something together as a team, and he absolutely hates going to the grocery store, so this was particularly fun for me!
- They gave me an elastic binder to go around my mid-section when I was in the hospital, and it's amazing. It holds my muscles all together, and it helps keep things away from my incision. As I'm losing my baby belly pretty rapidly, it's starting to get a little bit less comfortable simply because my incision is right there next to it all the time, but it's still a DRAMATIC improvement over having my clothes hitting it all day. If any of you ever has a c-section, and they don't give you one of these in the hospital, you have to go out and buy one yourself (well, have someone do it for you). They carry them at Motherhood Maternity and Babies R Us for sure.
- Cameras. I have so much fun taking photos of our family! I can't wait to post some of the recent photos I've taken of life around here. They're not all fabulous photography worthy of an award of any kind... but they will definitely be the type of photo that brings good memories in the future.
- Claire is eating lots better, and I can tell she's filling out at least a little bit. She's still a sleepy little thing, which is very different than both the boys.
- I just heard Chet go into the boys' room after the power was restored for the second time tonight. I'm pretty sure he was showing Ladan how to use the flashlight if it goes out again. As he was leaving the room, I heard Ladan say, "Okay! I can do that! I'll obey right away, Dad."
Well, there are many other things I'm thankful for today, but I'll stop with these for now. I'll try to post more photos soon.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Here are some of Claire's visitors...
Aunt Megan, Keith Sparrow (Claire is the first baby Keith has held, and he was FANTASTIC with her!), and my mom (Stephanie)
The sleeping girl. She loves to sleep, that's for sure!
We spent quite a bit of time like this in the room... me holding Claire with the boys at the foot of the bed eating a snack or watching a movie. In these pictures, they're watching Tom and Jerry for the first time ever. Ladan was belly laughing through much of it!
We were also blessed to have a helicopter pad right outside our window! The boys got to see helicopters lift off and land several times a day, which was great fun! As soon as Gabe would come into the room, he'd run to the window and exclaim, "I wanna' see a pretty cool helicopter!" Chet was at least as entertained by it as the boys were!
On our way home Sunday morning!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Of course, the weekend wouldn't have been complete without some home repair projects for Joseph and Chet. Don't you love the look of concentration on their faces!?!
We were so excited when we got this Mizzou set, because it features the number that our friend, Craig Heimburger, had when he played at MU. Super-fun!
We did a science "project" and grew butterflies from caterpillars in our home. It was really great! We started off with five caterpillars. All went into cocoons, but only four came out. And one butterfly died before we were able to release them. It was great for the boys to see all of these aspects of creation right in our home! They also had a really great time releasing the butterflies when it was time! They were Painted Lady butterflies.