Tuesday, January 27, 2015

a little girl and her hair cut

About a year ago the girls and I watched this video and ever since then Evy has wanted to donate her hair "because some people are bald cuz they are sick and I want them to have my hair." I love that this idea was birthed by seeing another little girl who wanted to help others.  It has been a long time growing her hair out folks!  And this long suffering mama was glad the day finally arrived because yeah! no more tangled tresses each morning. She insisted we keep her Big Transformation a secret and when Jason arrived home from work we announced her as "the new Evy" from the other room and she leaped in to show off her new look and told Papa about the people her hair would help. We are mailing her 3 little pony tails off tomorrow morning to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths (more on why we chose Pantene here) and I'm so proud Evy stuck to her goal.  Anni cheered her on and I snapped pictures and smiled as she giggled through her haircut today.

This is a very small thing but one that nurtures her spirit of love and concern for others and I am proud of our little Evy Imani and her big haircut today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

on gifts and more

I am an over-sharer, if that is a thing I am like the self proclaimed president of all who spill way too much. I think it comes from the place deep inside me that desperately wants to not feel alone. To feel connected and heard.  I crave conversation about hard things.  And life is the hardest of things for me.  I want to listen and ask a million questions and share and process with others. And I need those voices in my life reminding me I am not crazy. Because sometimes, let's face it: the crazy wins.

 But there are so many stories I cannot tell here. Because they are still bubbling inside with frazzled edges and no neat and tidy one liners and because they are too precious and personal and sacred. Writing is a need for me; an outlet to process, even if no one reads this wordy thought vomit but some stories are meant to be shared over coffee and tears while sitting on our well worn couch while our kids leave destruction in their wake.  And those stories are my favorite because they defy small talk and cannot elicit trite responses.   These beautiful and tragic parts need voice and ear and heart and soul.

We had a guest in our home last month and I still lay in bed at night offering prayers and thinking on the small parts I know of her story and wondering just how much one person can take before they crack. I see the world as so fragile because I feel so weak so much of the time but when I meet people that have been through so much ugliness and still can smile and graciously eat food at our dining room table and play with my kids and attempt to understand them even though they speak no English I just am in awe. When I heard even small snippets of the hard parts of her story I felt physically sick.  I wanted to 'fix it' somehow but all I managed to do was hold her hand and offer nods as she tried to communicate. Labels and theories are easy until someone is sitting across from your children eating rice and broccoli and accepting your meager hospitality.

I know we are supposed to offer up ourselves and that God promises to use us but I think so much on the change I see in myself. The ways I feel stretched and changed each time I offer myself even in these small ways that seem so insignificant when compared to those who give their lives for others.  I see the ignorance, poverty, and fear in my heart more clearly and I sense God calling me to trust more. I feel so shaken from my apathy and comfort when our lives collide with those whose paths have been so difficult.  I need these collisions because they remind me what is truly important. Because so often the tyranny of the immediate often crowds out the vital in my life.

Our guest impacted our home. And sometimes I worry that my kids see too much pain, too much chaos, too much mess, too much confusion, too many stories that don't end happily.  I want to shield them from hurt. I want to protect them but I also know this is real life and that Jesus is in all those places.  I want them to know that part of our family's story is loving and learning with people, even when that is hard. No, especially when that is hard.  I want them to know we can follow Jesus to every. last. place. even if those places seem scary and broken because Jesus goes to there to restore and heal and bring peace and blessing and the more we follow Him the more we receive as well.  He is a good and we can trust Him and He really means what he says about those who lose their lives will find it.

And here is the thing; my children are not as fragile as I think they are. Sometimes I am so worried about protecting my kids but they always surprise me with their ability to extend love and acceptance and joy.  I worry they will not understand, be confused, and it will be so challenging for them but they just embraced our guest with open arms and giggles and expected her to join our dance party and want to play Old Maid with them. They did not see her as all the things the world sees.  They did not worry about her past or the hard road she has walked.  They just were welcoming and kind and funny and I, yet again learn from them.  Having children has been a gift in so many ways but for me it is daily reminder of redemption (mostly mine), forgiveness (we can offer each other and God offers us), and hope. There is just so much HOPE. And it is so humbling because I fail so often and so often God shows me good things in the midst of those failings. And the world really needs my children; children who know that the experience of life is not all about them and a life focused on getting instead of giving is empty.  The world needs kids that see pain and failure and also then get a chance to appreciate redemption and victory. The world needs my kids because they are learning that people are diverse and different but strikingly and miraculously human. Every single one.  The ones we disagree with, the ones we can easily label as different or scary, the ones we can misunderstand, the ones that make "bad decisions." And we need to journey together to realize our own neediness and that we all need each other to grow and love and learn. In embracing each other in our brokenness we can be more honest about our own.  And I want to share this journey honestly with our children not as some expert but as a fellow sojourner discovering and failing and trying and having my eyes more and more open to just how much I have to learn about just how much Jesus offers us.

I say I trust God with everything in my life but the truth is I want to somehow make sure that my kids are under my control. But He has called us as a family to trust so I am slowly releasing more to Him.  And so while I still worry sometimes it is too much for them I also trust that God has called our family to these hard and messy places sometimes. That a protected life away from all that is different or seemingly scary is a life of missed opportunities to change and to be changed. How when we are desperate we see Jesus more because often our eyes are more open and oh, how much I want my kids to see Jesus; not as an add-on, not as a religious symbol, or a magic genie but as a Savior, as someone who became messy and touched pain and hurt and went to difficult places to offer healing and peace and abundance.  I know that I cannot teach them that unless I live it, however broken I am, because seeking justice and peace for others always brings it to my soul as well. And oh, Jesus we need grace everyday.

Our guest gave us all gifts. Some we can touch and some which we cannot.  After these gifts were given and my kid's snuggled them close and danced around the living room. The smell of a distant place and hours of travel and weeks of being restuffed inside a well worn suitcase were evident. Before she left she insisted I keep a watch she had been wearing during her stay. A watch that I had complimented in an attempt to communicate and fill uncomfortable silence.  I tried to refuse but culturally I know better.

A gift that is offered must always be accepted graciously and with thanks because gifts are offered to give and receive blessing. So many people have gifted me in my life. I pray our family's small gifts are accepted with love despite my fears, my own poverty, my ignorance, my apathy,  my short comings, and my sin because the older I get and the more I hear people's stories the more I know the only things I have to offer others is love and listening and kindness. And by offering that I create space in my life to allow God to work.

If we wait until everything is perfect to love and invite people in we will never get around to it.  If we wait until our kids understand everything we cheat them out of their own journey of discovery, questioning, and wrestling with their Creator.  Jesus said to LOVE people, not merely tolerate them but I don't know how we really love others if they always remain "them" and we stay in our minds "us." Jesus said a lot of stuff that makes me uncomfortable. He said we often clean up on the outside when our insides are filthy.  He said the poor, humble, and meek were blessed and the seemingly righteous, rich, and well educated were in great need.  And he spent his short time on earth loving us all and calling us all to more.  To More. I want that More. We all need each other and that is the difficult and beautiful truth of the Kingdom of light in this broken place.  If we focus on perfect motives, tidy answers, cleaned up versions of ourselves, and fixing others we miss real people with real stories that we are meant to hear.  And sometimes they are sitting at our dinner table.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

adventures in playing hooky

Today we had a blast playing hooky and taking advantage of the bountiful free days in January at one of our favorite museums; MSI.  We had plenty of accomplishes who joined us and it was a blast checking out the old and new exhibits. We just love this place y'all!!

our crew minus 3 frazzled mamas

"he, I know you!!"

And you guys if you are near Chicago and can go to MSI do not miss the new exhibit about numbers and the amazing mirror maze! Seriously SO cool!

will the real Annikah please stand up?

I'm pretty sure this is not approved ball playing behavior.

See, I was there!

Thanks to Becca who invited us and Swapna for joining us! A great day with friends in our most favorite of cities is always a great excuse to take a day off from our routine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

taking on the sledding hill

The slightly warmer temps and sunshine beckoned us to join friends and check out a sledding hill less than 5 minutes from our house.

We loved taking our neighbor's for their first ever sledding expereince! They loved it!

My fingers were freezing for an hour after sledding because I was taking pictures but we had so much I just could not resist snapping away!

Lydia gets some serious air!

Nirdesh after a face plant!

Go Evy Imani!

"This winter will not defeat me"- I repeat this often because as anyone who knows me well knows I am NOT a winter gal. But a day sledding in the sunshine with all these amazing friends will make even me LOVE the snow.
Stay warm friends,

Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy New Year!

We rang in the "noon year" with friends at a kid friendly and chaotic park district event. Yep, no swanky parties for us..just bounce houses and pizza afterwards. But hanging with old friends and finishing the night with kid chaos and new friends is just about our speed.

and that is a lot of little girls...and Abishai. And one more little dude was hiding behind the girls. Feelings blessed we can ring in the New Year (albeit a wee bit early) with old and new friends. Expecting awesome, challenging, and great things in 2015 because we serve an amazing God. Happy New Year, 

Friday, January 9, 2015

the last of the Advent-ures

The tree is put away; relegated to a box in the garage, the last of the candle wax was scrapped from the table top, and the Christmas cookie stash is finally gone.  But as I edit the last of our holiday photos this freezing afternoon with latte in hand I just had to post a few of these because the twinkling lights and sweetness in our children's eyes are meant to be remembered and savored long after the lights have been taken down.

Jason's last day as a Movember man. Abishai loved the tree and clearly we are not realists since we even decorated our tree with a bulldozer of a little boy in the house. I think I counted at least 6 broken ornaments but he did love it! And also we cannot forget this...

"you guys my mama is SO mean!! She won't let me grab the fire and burn my face off with the Advent candles!" It is rough to be one.

For Santa Lucia Day the girls took turns wearing the crown and Abishai could not be left out

And Abishai's first lollipop...in a moment of desperation while waiting for a holiday parade to begin. It was a great year of Advent celebrations and even though there is a lot of Mama and Papa effort involved I know it is worth it when the girls talk about our time together and Advent-ures with such anticipation and joy. Anni already asked "how many days until we start Advent again?" A while dear one.

a highlight of every Advent

One of our favorite Advent traditions is Come to Bethlehem and this year we had several friends join us to journey to Bethlehem.  That day during our Advent time I handed the girls a big envelope covered in candy canes (because really there are no sugar intake rules during the month of December as my now very snug jeans can attest to) with the tickets inside and they squealed and jumped up and down as soon as they realized what it meant.  I'm such a sucker for their joy and excitement!!

Mary is visited by the angel.  The girl's faces is my absolute fave.

Abishai was very amused by the live sheep with the shepherds

It was definitely one of our favorite nights of Advent this year made better because new friends were there to celebrate with us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas round 3

Our last sweet eating, present opening, family good times was at the "Shoe" home a few days after Christmas. Nothing like 9 cousins running through a house and tearing up the joint  juiced up on sugar. Right after this photo was taken I asked Evy "how many cookies did you eat?" and she promptly replied "probably 6!" So that was a parenting fail.  But it is Christmas right?

Bibi and Babu with the little men

the cousins traded names and bought one gift for one cousin. It was so sweet to see them open the specially chosen gifts!

A sign of the times...cell phone snaps! Our Christmas round 3 was a fabulous day with family; enjoying being together and embracing the chaos and blessings of cousins playing together.  Hope your time with family was rich and sparkly and sugary.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

More Christmas with family

Christmas morning we headed over to my parent's home to celebrate with my family.  The day included: Cookie baking (ok mostly burning), cooking, present opening, food stuffing, game playing, lots of laughing, and ended with The Hobbit. It was all good stuff.

There are always interested dogs around anything food related.

when Auntie Katy is around the girls are loving every minute (and fighting over who gets to sit by her). They did some pretty funny lip syncing videos.

The man folk enjoyed their dinner! As usual my mom went above and beyond and we were all ridiculously stuffed. It was so good!

and the candied almonds were also a BIG HIT with one little boy.

love this of my mom and her "baby" and of course her ever present iced tea :)

Game time was so fun this year as the girls are more able to really get into it and my mom got each of us new games we just had to try out.

Only 2 chips. Sad story.

And of course pics in front of the tree...

Super Bibi with her grandkids

Rob, Mel, and Data

sibs pic

and attempts at a family photo...and yes I am wiping his ever present snot nose with my hand and just whatever about it...

Jason captured this of my sis and I taking our "elfie" by the tree. I miss this girl so much!
We are blessed to have almost our family all together (we just missed Grandpa!) this year to celebrate God's goodness at Christmas and all year.
 Christmas round 2 was fabulous.
We also have a friendly little dance challenge going and this was our family's attempt Christmas morning. I have watched it at least 20 times and EVERYTIME when Jason comes in I just DIE laughing. I just can't. It slays me. God bless him for putting up with our craziness.