Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting Back in the Groove

I've felt pulled in too many directions the last few weeks for writing anything coherent to post on this blog. But I'm doing some reorganizing in terms of time and commitments, so things are looking up in that regard. I'll write again soon, but finally! Here are some pictures from our oh-so-lovely holiday at my parents' house in August.

Among other simple joys, Sophie and Gran caught up on coloring together.

We spent a day at Greenfield Village, visiting Thomas the Tank Engine. Jack was overjoyed to discover that Thomas was REAL. He and Sophie had a blast finding their way through this maze of hay bales, and Pa had fun trying to keep up with them.

Although he's a huge Thomas fan, Jack's favorite thing of all was unlimited plunges down this enormous, inflatable slide!

It was a full day. Thanks to my Dad, Sophie didn't miss her nap after all.

Sophie enjoys an afternoon on Lake Fenton with my beautiful sister.

An impromptu picnic in the back garden. Memories are made of moments like these.

Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for everything! You're the BEST.

My Sweet In-Laws

Our time in Michigan was all the more blessed because Matt's parents joined us for the last few days. If I started counting the ways my in-laws are so wonderful, I'd be up all night. As rare as it is to marry someone as perfect (for me) as Matt is, I think it's a precious thing to fall in love with his parents as well.

Here's Jack and Grandma discussing the joys of throwing pennies in a fountain.

And here's Sophie and Papa trying out the neighbors' swings.

After the kids and I returned to England, all four grandparents went on a weekend holiday to Mackinac Island. It's gorgeous up there in the summertime, and the tranquility was just what they needed after the excitement (read: emotional and physical exhaustion) of our visit.

I'm so fortunate to have you in my life, Mom and Dad. I'm glad we're family together!

Friday, September 12, 2008

God Never Needs Alone Time

Bedtime prayers take a very l-o-n-g time at our house because, in addition to thanking God for our many blessings and asking Him to bring healing, hope, courage, strength, joy, peace, etc. to those who need it, Jack is full of questions. No matter what or who we're praying for, there's always something else he wants to know.

Sometimes he asks more about the people we're praying for. Sometimes he asks why things are the way they are in the world. Sometimes he asks about God or what it's like in heaven. Tonight, in addition to a host of other things, he asked about prayer itself.

Jack: Does Jesus ever say, "No"?

Me: Mm-hmm, sometimes He does.

Jack: Does He ever say, "Shhh"?

Me: No, honey. He never does.

I always learned more as a teacher than I did as a student, and now as a parent I'm learning more than I did as a child. Somewhere between Jack's questions and my responses, I'm able to see, as if for the first time, the enormity of the answers. Tonight I realized two things:

1) As his parent, I need to find ways to enable Jack to feel heard more.

2) Unlike human parents, God is never in a hurry to get us into bed so He can have a break before another day begins tomorrow. He's always available to us, welcoming our prayers and our communication with Him. He's always actively, intently listening.

* * * * * * *
I love the Lord, because he listens to my prayers for help. He paid attention to me, so I will call to him for help as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2 NCV)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Where Are The Kiddos?

This morning in church our pastor asked the children if they had all gone back to school this past week. Then he asked if anyone was going to start school this week. Little Sophie raised her hand! Clever girl. She'll be going to our church pre-school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and she couldn't be happier.

I haven't posted photos in a while. For those of you going through Adorable Angel Baby Withdrawal, here are some pictures, compliments of my wonderful father-in-law. In the first one Jack is holding one of my Mom's cats, and in the second one he's holding a month-old bunny at Grandpa Tiny's Farm in Frankenmuth, MI. This boy loves animals.

Of course, you can't go to Frankenmuth and not pose for one of these:
I'll try to post more pictures of both kids, especially from our super-fun holiday, soon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Obsessive-Compulsiveness Goeth Before A Fall

The calendar says that we had a summer, but the weather begs to differ. Delighted as I was to visit my family in Michigan in August, the thought of possibly missing out on two weeks' warmth and sunshine here (because England is gorgeous when it's warm and sunny -- amazingly, breathtakingly gorgeous) did cross my mind. Well, luckily for me and unluckily for the other 60 million residents of the UK, it rained the entire time we were gone. And it's still raining.

Everywhere I go -- to Jack's school, the library, the supermarket, the charity shops -- everyone is complaining about the rain. The reason the British talk about the weather so often, the saying goes, is that there's so very much of it. And today the weather is coming down, down, down.

Autumn is here, or very nearly here. I smelled it in the air a couple days ago, when we woke up to sunshine and the rain stayed away until evening. Hooray! My all-time favorite season! I'm ready to get out in the garden and start the fall process of tidying up the beds, but so far all we've been able to do is talk about getting the patio furniture in the garage, out of the rain. In spite of the dreary 10-day forecast, I hope we have some dry days soon. I just bought some lovely tulip bulbs that I'd love to get in the ground. But for now I'm sitting inside, watching the rain. Enjoying some time alone while Sophie naps. Eating leftover pasta and drinking another diet Coke.

I know, I know! I claimed to be so over it in my last post. You probably saw that coming, didn't you, and yeah, I should have, too. I should have known that I'd be haunted by those four cans of diet Coke in the fridge. That I couldn't just let them sit there until someone, sometime came for dinner or a chat and said, "Forget the tea. What I could really go for is a diet Coke!" That I'd be pushed over the edge of reason by that nagging temptation of Just One More. That then, when only three remained, I'd rationalize how much better it would be to go ahead and finish them all so there wouldn't be any more left to tempt me. That infinitely stronger than the desire for another taste of diet Coke is my craving for neatness. Order. Closure. Control.

I'm glad it's September, not just because the leaves will turn colors soon but also because fall is such a good begin-again time. Summer holidays are over, the kids are back to school and we're getting back into a routine. It's a fresh start in so many ways: I'm setting the alarm so I can have an hour or so to myself in the mornings, which makes an enormous difference in the rest of my days. I'm going through our closets, taking inventory of what doesn't fit and what has hung unworn in the past year or so, gathering clothes for the charity shops. I'm getting back to the gym regularly, building it into my normal schedule.

I love times like this -- taking stock, being intentional, feeling motivated. Reminding myself what's real and what isn't. Choosing to relax (or even just consciously choosing to want to relax) into the moment, rather than just trying to get through it. Choosing to let go of some things I've tried too hard to hold onto. Times like this help soothe that inner part of me that cries out to be productive in order to feel purposeful. Times like this help me regroup and remember what's worthwhile and what... isn't.

After reconnecting with my family and with various long-lost friends who passed through London over the summer, my soul feels full enough and my mind is at peace enough to settle back into our little family's business-as-usual.

Fall is on our doorstep. Which means that winter is next, the season that challenges me mentally, emotionally and spiritually like nothing else. In spite of that, and in spite of the absence of a proper summer season, I look out at the rain today and feel optimistic. It's only weather. I can't control it, but there are plenty of other things I can control -- like being more honest, lowering my expectations of myself and not taking myself or my moods too seriously. That and, by God's grace, dealing with one day at a time.

I won't get it perfect, but that's okay. I don't need to. I do need to keep my eyes on Him. I need to trust Him. And I need to rest in the confidence that He is, ultimately, in control.
* * * * * * *
Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. (Psalm 105:4 NIV)

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Old Habit and a New Accomplishment

For the first time in over twelve years, over the weekend I drank a diet Coke. It tasted exactly the same as it did when I used to drink it daily in my teens and 20s, and although there are four more cans in our fridge left over from my sister-in-law's (wonderful!) visit at the beginning of August, I can't say that I care to have another one anytime soon. Nice, huh, to kick a habit and not even miss it?

For the second time ever in my life, last night I successfully hemmed a pair of trousers by hand. My mom has always been an expert in sewing hems, but I could never do it without the stitches showing through. Motherhood brings things out in us that we never knew were possible, doesn't it? Here I am, for the second September in a row, hemming trousers for Jack's school uniform. He starts Year 1 (American = first grade) today! Which means I need to get off the computer and into the kitchen so I can pack his lunch...