Thursday, September 27, 2012

gone fishin'

We got our hands on the free museum pass from our local library for the Shedd Aquarium and decided it was field trip day....and since we do school up in this piece we can swing that any day we so choose.  Sweet!
riding the CTA is always a big highlight (especially our full out sprint in order to make the bus). Thanks CTA trip planner!
The girls loved fish watching but we just could not pay the gazillion dollars to get into the Oceanarium so alas we left early to walk around the city and enjoy the weather.
ah, the lake front.
plus, we finally made good on our promise to see the "big fountain" up close.  But y'all there were BIG let downs that no swimming was allowed. It is rough to be a kid.
Here's to more impromptu field trips exploring our amazing city,

Monday, September 24, 2012

and other things I thought I would NEVER do...

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we are spinning out of control....fear and joy all in one.

Today was the second week of homeschool at our home. Sorta makes me start sweating just typing that. Yep, we are a homeschool family for the right now.  There are lots of reasons, prayers uttered to God for guidance, and uncertainty that remains. But we are forging ahead and trusting God to help us.  After returning from Africa and realizing we had missed every and all deadlines for Chicago Public Schools selective enrolments and after many frustrating attempts to visit schools around our home we began to think through other alternatives. Homeschooling came up almost relentlessly. Much to my initial dismay.  At first I laughed it off.  After all I am a former Chicago Public Teacher and believe in public education; however flawed, because I stand behind the teachers who are overworked and under-appreciated and firmly believe in the power to make a difference that compassionate and devoted parents wield.  But there was a lack of peace as we thought about Anni's education during this season. We realized how much traveling our family would be doing this year and missing weeks of school did not seem feasible.  We checked into and visited a couple private schools and still did not feel that it fit. We met more folks that homeschool and began to actually consider it.

But honestly I had to face a lot of my own stereotypes of "people who homeschool."  You know the ones; the kids are weird, the parents are control freaks who don't trust the 'big, bad world."  As I prayed about it I sensed that maybe God is asking me yet again not to judge. Not to assume I have it all figured out and to trust that as He calls me to something He will equip me.  That maybe when you cannot see that far ahead of you, you just walk forward where you can see.

We finally felt peace in deciding to homeschool Anni.  For now.  I can only handle thinking about things 6 months at a time.  And since that decision it has been confirmed for us personally in many ways.  Annikah is an amazing kid who is dealing with a lot right now and exhibiting some signs of PTSD possibly from our accident and maybe because she left everything she knew as home and is starting over.  I feel her.

God does not always call us to the most difficult, most "hardcore" thing just because it is rough.  That would be trying to bring about our own sanctification. Like screaming "Hey Jesus, look at me and all this really hard stuff I'm doing for you."  And that is lame.  Especially considering I would have nothing to show for my life considering I try; however imperfectly, to model my life after the One who "made himself nothing humbling himself to the point of death." It is also ironic that for me this decision is actually in some ways very difficult.  I am dying to self a bit more by being at home and teaching but we feel the need to be there for her even though my natural tendency is to "get busy" and try to just function.  It is easier than walking through it all.  But we feel like this is a time where we need to close ranks a bit and help each other adjust to this new life.

This is not a decision based on protecting my daughter from the big bad scary urban public school. I know Jesus is in those schools.  Jesus was with her when she went to her school in Africa and that was at first a challenging difficult endeavour but also a sweet and special time.  It is not about running from something but rather for us about embracing something for a time.  We sense there will be many different educational situations in our future and we must be open to seeking Him first and giving up "our plans."

I want my girls to know that no matter where they go Jesus is with them. But to teach that I have to live it.

As always I am realizing that usually when I think I really have something figured out I need to be open for God to change the game plan starting with my sin.  That where there is pride, self sustaining skills, and a know it all attitude He wants to break that apart for my good and His Glory.  That even though I feel thoroughly unprepared for what lies ahead I know I can trust that He will show up.  That like many decisions in life there are many ways to follow Him and instead of trying to make the right decision we need to seek Him above that perfect situation and ask Him for the journey He has for us. So yes, we are that family for now and constantly adding to the list of things I thought I would never do.  I guess that list should become smaller as my willingness to submit to whatever God asks of me grows.  
So here is to week two and counting.  Less tears today too.  I think because after learning about India we headed out to Devon Ave. for an impromptu shopping session in preparation for the Indian grub we are planning to cook up and eat with our hands.  We had a blast trying to find all the ingredients and meeting some Indian folks and Anni even found some cookies from the Middle East she used to buy in Africa. There are some definite benefits to this homeschool gig.
Off to cook,

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

it arrived today

our home school curriculum.

And I never thought in a million gazillion years I would be saying that. A proper post on what the heck is making us buck the system and home school while IN America coming soon and don't worry I was as shocked as you might be.  And yes, we are on African time in starting school but so is all of Chicago due to the teacher's strike so no worries right? We started today (nothing like lots of time to plan and read through everything) and it was rough.  We all cried; Anni (at least 3 times), Evy (lost count) , and me (once when I finally got a shower and sobbed).  I need a lot of prayer to embark on this new path in our journey.
And yeah I love this photograph (minus the ever present pile of unfolded clothes that are taking over my house) because I could not even pay Evy for the cheesy pose...she is that excited for new books.  I gotta admit I took a sniff too.
Teaching and praying,

a dream realized...

Guess who started her dance class today? And let's just say she was dressed and ready 2 hours before it began and we rode bikes to the park district to arrive 40 minutes early (because that was as long as I could hold her back people!). She peered through the windows watching the girls in the class just before hers and approached a little girl who arrived wearing a leotard by saying "are you in dance too? We can be friends!" Pushy but sweet (wonder where she gets the pushy part from?) No comments please.
In America you really can take REAL dance classes.  Turns out the rumors were true and this is making one little girl's life right about now.
*taken through the window with a zoom lens and yes, I am that mama (and thankful I was joined by 4 others).

Before she entered the class we prayed that she would learn to dance, show kindness to her teacher, and love her friends for His glory. I'd say God is good for providing for Miss Anni to realize a dream.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

praying for peace

We were in Arizona when the news hit.  Riots, demonstrations, murder, violence, and many unknowns. Desperation. There were ways this news touched our family personally and we ache for those affected around the world.  Almost immediately the news reels are played in a cycle and the cacophony of political solutions abound each one clamouring to be heard and quick to denounce why every other is clearly mislead. I get it.  It is the way the world works.  But political solutions are so short sighted and limited no matter where they originate from.  Because there is only one solution that transforms the individual, family, people, nation, our world.
Jesus and His message changes hearts.
As I was praying for Libya, Sudan, Egypt and everywhere affected by the recent violence and unrest I saw an image of darkness and light.  That you cannot appreciate the warmth light brings to your face until your have felt the cool of darkness.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." John 8:12
Heard from a local friend island side and she is praying for peace too; that God will help us.  I echo that prayer today.  May we all be desperate to pray for peace instead of quick to speak of hate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

some books that screwed up my life.....

So I finally finished the Hunger Games series last week. I was being tortured for many weeks of reading about this series through relentless posts on Facebook in Africa; also known by it's other name: the land of all things inaccessible. So when we returned we made sure to remedy this quickly.  J and I devoured the books and I was shocked at how much this series was not about kids killing kids (as I had been told) and how much it was about all of us.  The author is brilliant at writing about humans and what we allow to become reality.  That we are all vulnerable and capable of being part oppressed and part oppressors.  I could not stop thinking about what in my life and this culture could easily lead to watching kids kill each other for entertainment. I kept remembering an exhibit I saw at the Chicago History Museum.  I was researching and writing some curriculum for them about the Emmett Till case and a travelling exhibit about lynching in America was on display.  There was a collection of postcards mailed all over the US from friends to friends and from family members to other family. The writing was full of greetings and small talk and family news: "we baked apple pie today" and "uncle Gil just returned from his long trip up north" and "the children have started school already."  Just normal family news.  Then the front of the postcard was a photograph of people crowded around a dead, burning, lynched body.  I studied history and know about the depths of violence and racism and class-ism in our past but the family news coupled with small children standing in front of another human being's burning corpse just shook me to my core.  I have so many thoughts about the Hunger Game series (especially the first book because I must say while I was committed to finding out what happened to Katniss, Peeta, and Gale the second and third books lost some of the must read quality) but I found this blog post about it that says it much better than I ever could. Did you read it? What are your thoughts?

So, in other books that messed me up....Seriously, though I wanted to throw out some books that have messed my life up.  In good ways, in challenging ways, and in ways that make me chase after Jesus even more and look hard at my excuses for preserving my life above counting it nothing.  At first I was resistant to recommending books because I think for the most part we are information whores.  That is we horde information and nod our heads in agreement or shake our fists in defiance but either way it results in little change in our actual daily lives.  Almost like we are paralysed by the sheer vastness of choices and amount of options and after weighing everything DO very little.  I know I plead guilty to this.  We could not possibly change because there is just too much.  What difference would it make anyway?  Lies of the enemy that allow me to excuse my sin even when God has showed me something better.  I need accountability and dialogue and butt kicking if I hope to take serious the call of Jesus on my life.  These reads have helped and are helping me to do ever slowly....
The Word. Of God.  I know, I know.. But seriously do we read it? do we breath it? do we expect it to speak to us and redefine our lives?  I know too often I have read everything but The Word.  It has been rocking my world as of late, especially the books of Acts..."His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him- though He is never far from any one of us. For in Him we live, move, and exist. (Acts 17:27-28)
If that is all you have time for ignore the rest of this list.
don't waste
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
This book really encouraged me to count the cost of following Jesus and not sit back and allow life to happen mostly dictated by what others say or do around me.  Really helpful in beginning to question our purpose..
“If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full. This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life. Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy” (p. 10).
My Utmost for His Highest- Oswald Chambers
This short devotional never fails to give my sulking, pathetic self a spiritual butt kicking in less than 3 minutes a day. No excuses to not have time for that.
Thank God that He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a joyous thing, but it is also something that requires bravery, courage, and holiness. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is bringing "many sons to glory" (Heb 2:10), and God will not shield us from the requirements of sonship. God's grace produces men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus, not pampered, spoiled, weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life. And it is always necessary for us to make the effort to live a life of worth and excellence.
Radical by David Platt
This book expressed so much of what we experienced in taking the step to live and love in Africa, just ya know better and more eloquently. It is so challenging and edifying.
"We are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.
A nice, middle class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just he way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that mater, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream….
He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshipping ourselves.(p.10)
You can also listen to the series that led to the book here. I dare you to try to live the same after...
tanigle kingdom
The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
J and I found this book really interesting in terms of how we think about "doing church" and "being the church." Hugely challenging in the call to just love people without any strings or selfish motivation (even if we can cloud those in "good reasons"). Jesus came to bring the kingdom...will I be a part of it?
…people who only dream of community usually destroy it, but those who love people without expectation unknowingly create it.” 
“The more we do ‘together,’ the less individualistic we’ll be. The more we become ‘one’ with Christ, the less comsumer oriented we’ll be. The more we do for ‘others,’ the less materialistic we’ll be.” 
speaking of jesus
Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis
This author has lived in a similar culture to the one we just returned from and I really appreciate his desire to just share Jesus (not religion, culture, tradition, etc. I wrote about this here too) He questions our usual approach to telling people about Jesus with the us/them and in/out mentality.  It is provocative and interesting and asks people to just talk about Jesus and what they are learning in following him.  That faith is exciting and messy and dangerous and awesome and a journey that we can invite others to.
There's a place for doctrine and dogma, and science and history and apologetics, but, these things are not Jesus - they are humanly manufactured attempts to make people think that having the right ideas is the same thing as loving and following Jesus.” 
"Evangelism, as a method, is dangerous because its something we “do” to other people. Nobody likes to be “done”.Whereas Making disciples…. is a journey of relationship that encompasses support, trial and error and difficulty…. Discipleship is a journey that requires change… Discipleship invokes time commitment."
7 by Jen Hatmaker (watch the video here)
Ok, so Jen is sorta my girl and not just because I wrote to her from Africa and asked if I could get a copy of her latest book and she responded herself with a FREE copy for my Kindle but because in one of her other books she quotes a Ben Stiller character.  See, she is my homie, yo.  She takes a hard look at excess and if you think that does not include you- it does: all of us!  This hit home with this Western world girl living in the developing world.  She is also hilarious and I can relate to so much of what she shares about kids and family.  Her purpose in looking hard at her life (and us looking at ours) is to make room for God to speak, to bring Him more glory as we live out His call.  But she is real about the bumps along the way and admits it is not all formula and easy.  It goes deeper.  If you read this and pray that God would reveal the plank in your own eye it will ruin your life.  Just kidding.  OK, I'm not but in the best-est ways.

“I don’t want to consume the redemption Jesus made possible then spurn the methods by which He achieved it." Ouch. Umm, guilty.
“Do not be fooled by the luxuries of this world; they cripple our faith … The gospel will die in the toxic soil of self.”

None of these are the words of God (except for the obvious), none of the authors are perfect, nor do I agree with everything they write but I have been challenged by their words and their lives and I wanted to share.  I love Jesus and I want to live my life pursuing Him and figuring what it means to really die to self so that Christ may reign in me.  I hope that means we can all figure that out together and still be different, disagree with one another, screw up, have joy, celebrate, and fumble through this life with abundant forgiveness, grace, and love.  We can be free to ask tough questions, to struggle in community, to live in tension, and to have faith while struggling with doubt.  I think these books can help in that bumpy but exhilarating journey.

So, what are you reading? What has impacted you? And stay tuned for an opportunity to do community with this last book soon......are you in?

Monday, September 10, 2012

ten on ten: last memories of Iowa

these 10 are the last memories of time with family stored up on my camera.  Too good not to share.
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1. playing cards with Bibi at the fairy tale festival
2. riding in style (with only occasional smack downs)
3. Amish town power and weird smells (according to Miss A)
4.  a do-nut & a bonnet in Amish town
5. cake glow
6. celebrating turning 6 with cousins. first time in four years.
7. holy geese batman (and adorable lil girl)
8. girly cousin dress up (with the random and hilarious gang sign..wha???)
9. Jazz music and dancing with my love under the stars
10. Dear summer, we miss you already.
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Happy shooting,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

an orchard, girl talk, & too much cheese

visiting apple orchards was like tops of the things we pined for in our sweaty days of island dwelling.  All things fall really (we plan on addressing the pumpkin spice coffee this week as well).  Lucky for us we got our apple orchard on this past weekend.  Bibi had scoped out a new place near lake Geneva and us girls checked it out.
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they had BIG tractors to climb on..Holla!!
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and eager and pushy goats
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being silly with Bibi
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they even had a mini carousel
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and a train ride too!
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touring the apple orchards with my sillies...
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but mostly I spent the weekend slothing around and talking with these ladies; Jill & Jess (both of who get rockstar awards for flying in from far away and arranging said flying in and being way preggers and still hanging respectively)....
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They knew me in my college days of having crushes on TA's, starting papers the night before they were due, boo-tay dancing until wee hours, building houses together, and general young dumb stuff you do when you are figuring out your place in the world.   It was good and a long time coming and numerous times I had the thought that I am not cool enough for the amazing friends I have in my life (shhhh, don't tell them).  My friendship with these ladies is cherished and reminds me how special it is to have people in your life that make you want to be better but love you even if you never get there.  We stayed up until 1 or 2am every night talking everything life and we ate way too much much cheese, yo.  Yep, I'll say it again: it is a gift to be known.