Monday, January 1, 2018

In the Fall, We Change

It's early in the morning on the first day of a brand new year--the perfect time to write about the changes that are happening in my family.

Months ago, when I mentioned to my next-door neighbor that the winds of change were blowing, she immediately--and probably completely unconsciously--looked down at my front to see if a baby bump was visible there.  Maybe that was your first thought, too.  ;-)  But no, that's not the change that is in the wind this time.  ;-)

Twelve years ago, in the fall of 2005, we arrived in Virginia, freshly returned from spending several years in Israel.  It was a beautiful September day when we got here; and, probably because we had spent the previous eight years in climates without four distinct seasons, I had a heightened appreciation for fall and all the beautiful transformations that happen here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during that time.

But leaves aren't the only thing that change in the fall.

For quite some time, Jeff and I had felt a stirring in our souls, a hunger and thirst for something more, a desire to live more radically than the comfortable existence we had settled into.  We LOVED that comfortable existence, make no mistake about it!  But there was a whisper in the wind of something more, and that voice grew stronger as the summer of 2017 went by and autumn approached.

The voice summoned us with an ancient call: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  (Matthew 4:19)

Many of you know that Jeff and I had, earlier in life, served in the full-time ministry, both in the US and internationally.  When we moved back to my home place in 2005, it wasn't necessarily with the intention to stay here forever!  We wanted to remain open to God's guidance as to our future plans; but as time went on and our roots in this soil grew deeper, the chances of us again serving God in that way seemed to grow dim.

Our wonderful fourth son reminds us of an important spiritual principle.  You see, Shav's name comes from a Hebrew word that means "return, restore," and that's exactly what we needed to do: to shav to our first love!  :)  And in early September, we did just that--reconnecting with a congregation in Washington DC that felt very much like home to us, a place of sacrificial love and incredible zeal to reach out to others, to LIVE the teachings of Jesus, not just talk about them.  Being around the brothers and sisters there reminded us of how much we had changed in the preceding dozen years.  It was time to return.

We thought and prayed and pondered and sought advice and talked with each other and poured our hearts out to God and waited for His response.  And when Jeff gave me the YES that I was hoping to hear, my heart rejoiced with exceeding joy!  But early on, I became aware of the enormity of the decision we had just made; and as I carried jars of homemade grape juice down to our cellar late one night in early September, I paused there and bowed my head.  "God, if You can help me dig up the roots I've put down in this place, I will follow You anywhere," I prayed.  "I will go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything for You.  But You're going to have to help me, because these roots go down so far, I'm not sure I can ever get them up by myself!"

And that, dear friends and readers, is what we've been doing this past fall: digging up roots and preparing to soar again.

We knew immediately that our desire for deeper involvement with the DC church meant that being there for a two-hour slot on Sundays just wasn't going to cut it, so we sought a buyer for our home, Jeff looked for new employment in the DC area, and we prepared to move (not an easy feat for a family of eight!).

God gave us a buyer for our home (our next-door neighbors, which is amazingly ideal for so many reasons), God gave Jeff a new job right outside DC (in an upscale barber shop near the Pentagon), and God is helping us move.

We haven't quite gotten that last part finished yet.  ;-)

But we're making significant progress--not the least of which was meeting with the realtor and the homeowners yesterday, on the last day of the old year, to finish the paperwork and get the keys to our new home!!
Oh, we're not buying--simply renting--trying to get and stay as mobile as we can, so that if and when God calls us to go here or there or yonder, we'll be ready. We don't know if and when that invitation will come; but for now, we're tremendously excited about this first step in our new journey!

Being in the northern Virginia area means we'll be close enough to the Harrisonburg area to make regular visits here; and with the friends and family we have in this area, we will always have a strong attachment here.  The kids will still participate in the Shenandoah Valley Children's Choir, Jeff will still work one day a week at his barbershop here, we will visit my parents every week, and we'll likely do quite a bit of our food shopping here and take advantage of the lower prices away from the metropolitan area!  ;-)  But the rest of the time, we'll be in and around DC, being used--we pray--to effectively advance the kingdom of God!

There is so much more I could say about all of this, but for now, it is a beginning--the first part, here on the year's first day, of the story of this next chapter of our lives.  More than anything, we desire for God to be the author of all that is coming!  He writes the BEST adventures, after all!!  :)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Red Dress Sunday: A Christmas Tradition

Every December, on one of the Sundays close to Christmas, Moriah wears a red dress, I wear my red boiled wool jacket and a black skirt or pants, and we commemorate the occasion with some photos.  It's become such a strong tradition that I really feel like breaking out in song with Tevye as he sings, "Tradition, tradition, tradition!"    :) 

To see our version of this Christmas tradition through the years, here are the links from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  And now, it's 2017's turn.  :)

I'm so very grateful for another year of joy with my precious daughter!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Benjamin Reads Thomas

Benjamin's favorite books these days are a set of three Thomas the Tank Engine board books that we've had since Josiah was our little guy toddling around!  Their edges might be a little worn, but they're still as good as ever; and the delight they bring to our youngest son--as they have done to his older siblings through the years--is certainly difficult to measure because it's such a large quantity! And speaking of large quantities, I wonder how many times I've read these books during the past 15 years.  If I had a dollar for every time...  :)

Benjamin's latest fun is "reading" the books himself.  It's funny: every single page sounds exactly alike when he reads it!!  ;-)
 We adore this little guy!!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sometimes I Feel Like a... paper hanger!!  :)  
 But when Benjamin is clingy and says in his adorable way, "Hold you!" and I say, "Do you want me to hold you?" (I love how toddlers mix up their pronouns), and he nods, and I reach for him and settle him on my hip, and then I think, "How am I ever going to get this done with one arm?" and my other arm gets tired, and I try to set him down, and he acts like the floor is lava and draws his feet up as high as he can...
...I remind myself that "this too shall pass," and I give thanks for moments when my littlest guy wants to snuggle, and I hold my koala closer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Way They Play

For the past few days, I've noticed, more than I usually do, how my children play.

I'm not exactly sure why this stood out to me now--maybe because, when I walked into the living room and saw this...
...I happened to think that it's a little unusual for Tobin to be involved with setting up an imaginary world like this.  Oh, he certainly does his fair share of LEGO-building, but what he really loves to do is be outside, so to take the time to set up train tracks, pirate characters, animals, construction paper, and so forth is not the way I normally see him play.
Maybe Shav did all the work, and Tobin just jumped in and joined him.  ;-)
They seemed to be having a blast playing and creating together, and it made me more conscious of how my children play--because a year or two or three or ten from now, they won't be sitting here playing with this stuff!
I have long thought that one of the advantages of having a large family is that the older siblings get a chance to play with "little kid toys" at more than one stage of life.  Every time we have a new baby, the cycle of toys starts over again, and the infant toys are brought out, followed by the toddler toys, and so forth...and wonderfully, all the kids get to play with whichever ones catch their eye, without someone accusing them of being immature.  Take this train set, for example: most (perhaps all?) of those pieces came from Jeff's mom who gave them to us when Josiah was just a little tyke, and all of the children have played with them as they've come along in the family.  While it's true that Josiah and David don't normally sit down and get out the Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, they sometimes end up getting it out and building a track for their littlest brother to enjoy.  And don't tell me they're not enjoying it in the process.  ;-)  That's the way it goes for all the toys around here!

And so, when I saw Shav and Tobin with all the various toys they pulled together into their world, it put a smile on my face.  I love that they're growing in maturity and responsibility and all that good stuff, but I also love that they enjoy getting down on the floor and creating something like this (and having time to do so, but that's a whole other topic! can I just say thank God for homeschooling and the flexible schedule it provides!).  :)

With these thoughts in mind, I kept my eyes open the past couple of days to observe how my children play, what brings them joy, how they choose to spend their free time.  Here are a few glimpses of what I saw...
"Where's Benjamin?" is a thought that goes through my head multiple times a day; and this morning when I asked that, here was the answer. 
Benjamin was having a great time standing on the stool and playing in the water.
It reminded me SO MUCH of Shav doing that when he was about 26 months old, Benjamin's current age.  :) 
Later on, Shav and Tobin came to me and asked if they could sail their boats in the bathtub. 
In the past week or so, they had, completely on their own, made these boats, using a saw to cut the wood, creating a mast, figuring out how to affix it, even adding sails. 
They want to go sail them on the neighbors' pond, but haven't had a chance to do that yet.
The bathtub was a decent alternative--not quite the high adventure of sailing on a pond, but with the added tumult of washcloths occasionally being dropped on the boats, it was dramatic enough.  :)
I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite books from early childhood, Scuffy the Tugboat (anyone familiar with it?), as I watched my sons sailing their boats in the tub.  :)

I didn't take any pictures of this, but after I had put Benjamin in bed for his nap today, the other five kids played a more energetic game: Active Shooter, which is their version of the age-old good guy v. bad guy battle that all kids seem to play at some point or another!  They also played a version of Capture the Flag--well, it was Capture the Purple Hippo, to be exact--and nerf bullets were flying.  I always enjoy seeing all of my kids (all except the youngest, in this case) participating in a game together; truly, having the time and opportunity for things like this is one of the significant reasons we homeschool.

After supper, I caught David playing the piano.  Out of all the kids, he's definitely the one most likely to sit down and play; and on some days, he spends quite a bit of time tickling the ivories.
Maybe Benjamin will take after him.  :)

Even later, after Benjamin and Moriah were in bed, the four older boys played a couple of games together, the first being some kind of roll-the-dice-and-exchange-money game (fortunately, pennies were the currency being used this evening, so nobody went broke) ;-) and the second being Dutch Blitz.  I was in other parts of the house doing various tasks, but I could hear their laughter ringing out.  Now that's a sound that does a mother's heart good!

From this post, it might seem like all we do around here is play.  ;-)  My kids will assure you that's not the case!  :)  But between all the moments of doing math lessons and putting away their clean laundry and loading and unloading the dishwasher and reading science books and taking down recycling and getting the mail and emptying the trash and doing economics homework and so forth, there are many moments of play.  And tonight, I wanted to capture for the future what that play looks like for my children here in the present. 

These moments--of train tracks on the floor and boats in the bathtub and nerf bullets getting lost under couches and behind bookshelves and LEGO pieces, always LEGO pieces everywhere--may be messy.  But they are sweet and precious and irreplaceable, and my eyes have been opened afresh to the wonder of it all.