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No one gives…

No one gives….

The right words, that can be a balm to your wounds. That can pick you up off the ground when you feel that you have fallen flat on your face. That can give you hope that lasts. That settles your soul instead of disturbing it.

The right attention, that is selfless. That is focused and worth while. That isn’t superficial and sometimes haphazard.

The right time, that is never ending and fully satisfying. That doesn’t leave you wanting more or less.

The right care, that knows the essence of who you are and what you need. That isn’t a shot in the dark.

The right love, that isn’t self-centered or reactive, but steadfast and faithful. That is sacrificial. That comes from the very heart and that was planned from before the beginning.

Sometimes the things that we think we need are not found where we are looking for them. Sometimes we don’t know that we are looking for them.

Christmas can feel commercialized, materialistic, over-scheduled, and like a let-down. We are seeking for the right words, attention, time, care, and love, but not caring to look to the source of it all. No one can give you those things in a present, or even in their personhood. No one, except Jesus.

Is your heart craving more this season? Are you finding an end in all that you found pleasurable before? Is “staying at home” difficult because any time spent in more solitude leads to reflection and self-loathing, fear and anxiety for you? Let us take our eyes off what we cannot fix and look to the One who did everything to “fix” what we can’t.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7
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The Bright Side

We can all be an Eeyore. It’s the reason that while he is so grumpy, we all secretly love him and identify with him. If we took stock of our own reflections and attitudes during the day, we would probably land on his side of the shore, far away from the optimists. Even when we don’t want to.

During this slow down time, while we wrap up our first term and prepare for being home for the holidays, we are spending some time as a family practicing our even-temperedness. This probably sounds strange to most or a little out-dated, but I can tell you.. it is very needed. Especially when we are all home and struggling with different emotions about the things we are going through as a family or individuals. Does this strike a chord with anyone else?

So, we came up with the question, “What is the bright side?” And promised that we would ask each other this question when certain clouds started to accumulate over one of our heads (or all) and we were very nearly becoming the Eeyore in the bunch. Not because we want to stomp out the gloom or pretend that it doesn’t exist, but because we want to grow in communicating with each other. Because we are all struggling with Reacting instead of Responding during this increased time of togetherness. Because we love each other and want to love each other well.

To the snuggly, sometimes misunderstood Eeyore we ask, “What’s the bright side?”

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All of us have experienced this time in the world differently- some of it is the same, but much of it is different depending on our location, our job, our economic situation, our family situation, or what country we live in. We all have circles, like those pictured in a Venn-diagram, overlapping and touching in some areas, and completely different in others. Even in this, as cultures and societies there are always overarching concerns and happenings that touch us no matter where we are from and where we are going.

It is a problem to be sitting still and unresponsive to the concerns and happenings of the world around us. Sometimes we lack perspective though… of what to do with the knowledge that we have and the information that floods us on a daily basis. The cacophony of voices dulls many of us into apathy. For others it overwhelms, exhausts, and saddens. There are some that it causes to break out in a fighting response, defensive, and yet protective. I don’t always know the right way to react. Maybe it’s safer to say that I never do. I lack wisdom of how to think of everything at once, to be fair and kind to all, to be compassionate. And it makes it harder that we dehumanize ourselves by doing all of it from the comfort of our couches, disguised behind devices. But much of this distance is inevitable during this season.

I don’t want to shelter myself until it passes. I want to live well during this time and respond instead of reacting. I want to sit and reflect as Thanksgiving is upon us. After any harvest, whether a good year or a bad, we realize that it’s important to reflect. That reflection stretches into the next month as the year comes to an end and we look forward to a new one. It helps us to not forget what came before.

As I sit and reflect in this harvest season, much is still cloudy and confusing. However, I can clearly see that we are not the one’s in control. How could we be? I hope we can agree that in looking at the times as a whole- we tend to make a mess of things instead of cleaning them up. In this, I desire to turn to the One in control. It’s not out of our perfection that salvation comes. We cannot do everything right, say it all right, or think it all right. Salvation came to us in our weakness, our selfishness, our sin. We were not looking for it. It was in spite of these things that it came, in the person of Jesus. I don’t desire to give people a second-hand imitation of him, but instead to lead them to everlasting water- where there is life… even in the midst of death, disparity, sadness, injustice, unrighteousness, anger, apathy, pain and discord. He provides hope even in the darkest times because he suffered through the darkest thing- fighting forces in realms unseen to us. Fighting death. Dying on the cross to pay for the punishment that we deserve. The mess that we have made, make and will make. He resurrected to bring us new life, and gives us the real opportunity to believe in Him and be born again. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.

“A Unified Diversity”

I am thankful. I am thankful that my Savior lives and is control. I am thankful that I can see his wondrous works in his world. I am thankful that I have a voice (and fingers) to praise Him. I am thankful that he made each one of us, in all of our beautiful diversity, after his own image. I am thankful that he has given us the privilege to be stewards of his creation. I am thankful that even when we mess ALL of it up, He is still there- He is still holding out his arms to us in welcome. He is in control. Praying that each of us would be able to sit and reflect more in this season. Praying that we would come to him, because I know that there are many who are weary and heavy-laden.

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Around the Spinney

One thing that we really love to do together as a family is to read and listen to good books. When our first two children were 4 and 2, our favorite story to listen to was “Winnie the Pooh.” We had the physical copies of the book and we also had the audiobook version with Stephen Fry as Winnie the Pooh. (I would recommend this version to anyone- the voice actors bring the characters to life so beautifully.)

I cannot count how many times we have listened to and laughed at A.A. Milne’s timeless stories. Winnie the Pooh was my favorite lovable and huggable bear all throughout childhood as well. And of course, that is why my business is called “Around the Spinney.”

I have always loved the story of Chapter 3, “In which Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle“. Pooh is joined by Piglet as he walks around and around in a circle, tracking something. This is one of my favorite paragraphs in the story:

“There was a small spinney of larch-trees just here, and it seemed as if the two Woozles, if that is what they were, had been going round this spinney; so round this spinney went Pooh and Piglet after them; Piglet passing the time by telling Pooh what his Grandfather, Trespassers W, had done to Remove Stiffness after Tracking, and how his Grandfather, Trespassers W, had suffered in his later years from Shortness of Breath, and other matters of interest, and Pooh wondering what a Grandfather was like, and if perhaps this was Two Grandfathers they were after now, and if so, whether he would be allowed to take one home and keep it, and what Christopher Robin would say. And still the tracks went on in front of them…”

This feels like one of our days as a family- walking together, determinedly but in a lolly-gagging sort of way. Trying as best as we can to cherish our time together and to pass on thoughts, wisdom, and well-wishes to one another. Not really knowing where we are walking to, but knowing that if we do it together we will enjoy the journey.

More on our favorite stories soon!

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Relationship over Resource

While we were in transition, I missed our stuff a lot. I missed all of the resources that we have accumulated over the years for homeschool and playing. But what I realized over the last few weeks is that these things cannot replace me with my children. They are just tools, that can be used well or poorly. They don’t babysit, they don’t teach by themselves, and they don’t bring peace upon each of their hearts. Often, they frustrate when they have to be shared, they bore when the kids realize how quickly the satisfaction of playing with them is finished, they actually crowd our lives and our relationships. We get all of these feelings when we elevate our things above what is actually important. In reality, they can delight at times, but that delight most often comes in the context of relationship. What brings those things to life is when we play with them together, when we share them in common as a family.

There was one thing that we had through all of these months of transitioning back over Stateside, that was our relationships with each other- our essence of family. No matter where we were, we were there together. And the dynamic ebbs and flows of each of our relationships together were always there, sometimes with others watching or being involved with us. Now that we have the resources back, I don’t want to forget that the relationships are always first. Because I want my children to understand that to be true, I want them to care for each other and be able to communicate well instead of being wrapped up in their possessions. I hope that I will be able to share more posts along the way of how we are able to do that as a family. And I hope you can too.

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God’s Faithfulness

I don’t have much time to write these days and that is probably a good thing. Little blurbs will pop into my head, but I’ll forget what I wanted to say by the time I get a chance to sit down. There’s honestly not much sitting down that goes on without someone asking me to read a book, or someone pulling my hair (Katie likes to do that a lot), or someone asking me to pretend with them. And that, as I said, is a good thing. It feels messy and crazy sometimes, but it is all so good.

But I did quickly want to share about God’s faithfulness before I forget what I wanted to write.

More than 2 years ago I typed something into the Google search engine: “Green areas around Chicago”. We had started to talk and pray about moving to the States so that we could stay together in case something ever happened to my husband’s job. With two different passports, the chances were high that it would be difficult for us to move quickly together in an emergency. So, that was part of the reason I typed that into the search engine.

Somehow I was immediately on a page looking at parks in Palatine, IL. I thought, “Wow- this looks really nice.” The other reason I had searched for this specific thing is that I had been craving some open fresh air, green lawns (maybe rolling), and nature. I had been in the desert for 8 summers and my heart was ”hartseer”. Literally “heart sore” in Afrikaans. After seeing the pictures, I realized that I had gone about my search backwards. So I redirected my search that afternoon to look for a good church and I found one guess where? In Palatine.

Well, 2 years go by and we are in the States looking for a job and a place to live and the Lord opens the doors to move 15 minutes away to the rolling hills that I saw and the church that I found.

Today, I was thinking about this and praising the Lord for his goodness. Not because the results of my internet search were a sign or a promise or a certainty- I never felt that it was and day by day through this transition He has been teaching me to trust Him no matter what happens. Instead, I was praising the Lord because He was so good to show me his kindness in the intimacy of my relationship with Him. And that is something I will always remember and that I know he will use to stir up my heart in thankfulness and praise to Him.

I love that each time I ask my son to pray in the morning after we read the Bible together and before we start our school day he prays, “Father, Thank you for giving Pappa a job and for giving us this house.” It is such a lesson for me to keep praising my Heavenly Father for all that He provides. To remember and recall all that He has done in my life- in physical provision, and even more in spiritual provision. Praying that you have some time to recall these things in your own life today, whether or not you have seen them before. And that the Lord will tune your heart to all that He is doing and how good He truly is.

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It has been a busy month with my husband accepting a job, sorting out the details of moving, and then actually doing it. When I think about it, I am very grateful that our transition to the US was ordered by someone other than ourselves. Thinking about the details of it all, we would have never been able to perfectly plan everything that needed to happen. But there is One who knew and who did.

We found out that we could all move to the States in January, almost a year and a half after starting the process through paperwork submittal, but even longer when you consider the conversation and prayer that went into it.

In February we began to think about packing up our house because we knew our little baby would come in April.

Meanwhile, we were hearing news that Covid19 was actually a bigger deal than everyone expected.

April 2020: many things were happening in Dubai which made it easy and hard to have a baby in the pandemic. We were receiving the best health care from my favorite doctor, who helped me through 3/4 pregnancies. We felt safe as the government was doing an excellent job in the midst of the pandemic. But of course, our parents couldn’t fly in to help like we hoped they would be able to and so that was very difficult. Thankfully, we had wonderful friends who helped and all came right when we met our little Katie girl.

After having our little one, our thoughts and prayers shifted to being able to fly to the US and move before our entrance would expire. And by God’s grace, we were able to fly out mid May.

And then we spent four months catching our breath in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula reconnecting with people that we hadn’t been able to see in person in years, our family was so supportive and we are so grateful for the soft landing they gave us. And for the miles that they traveled to say hello at a distance.

And so begins the next stage. I admit that there is fear associated with being in a foreign country, even when it isn’t actually foreign to me. But for 10 years I was building a life in another one. I knew the way it works and how to figure things out. And now we are learning how to do everything again. But we are excited that we get to do it together.

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After almost exactly three months and our friends’ help we were reunited with our dog Nellie yesterday! We took the two little girls with us on a day of road tripping to and from Chicago O’Hare in order to pick up our favorite little fur ball. It is so nice to have a little piece of home back with us. We are reunited and it feels so good!

The little ones keeping busy as we waited outside of Emirates Skycargo
Best Friends!
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Picnic Time

“When I was growing up, kids would go outside and play all day and invent things. And my brothers and I pretended our picnic table was a ship one summer. Our bikes were horses, and our trees were forts. We turned everything in the world into make-believe.”

Mary Pope Osborne, Writer of The Magic Tree House books

As I write this, it is raining outside. I can hear the rain drops pounding on the roof of the three-seasons room in my parents’ house. I can hear the wind blowing through the large trees in the forest behind the house, and in front of the house cars are speeding through puddles on the road. After living in a dry desert for a long time, these rainy days are really quite special. Seeing the ground saturated with water, feeling the warmth of summer cooled, experiencing the quiet of a quintessential rainy day. It’s a settling experience for which I am grateful.

I am also quite grateful for a summer where I can sit outside with the kids and enjoy the sunshine instead of hiding from it. We have really been taking advantage of the opportunity for nature walks and picnics since moving back home in May. And I’m realizing how important it is to keep our van supplied with a picnic blanket that can be taken anywhere. My next goal is to find some regional guide books to have stashed in the car for these trips so that we can identify more on our nature walks.

In the meantime, I’m working on some special nature walk picnic blankets to sell in the Etsy shop so keep posted! As you can see above, our kids are pretending that our homemade picnic blanket is even more than a mat to enjoy some nourishment on… it’s a backyard fortress to fight mythical and imaginative creatures from.

Hoping you’re enjoying the sun, the clouds, or the rain wherever you are today!

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My Little Workshop

When we moved to the States in May, I had no idea that 2 1/2 months later I would be creating and making during my spare time. Usually, I don’t have the time to do that between homeschooling and taking care of everything while my husband is at work. And that is especially true while having a newborn. But this is a very different season, and I’m grateful that I do have the spare time and it has been so fun!

My mom set me up with her little “Seweasy” table, a spare sewing machine, and an ironing/cutting board. Between school, during naps, and whenever I’m inspired, I’ve been able to sit down and create some things. I can even take a little break and enjoy a nice Keylime La Croix from my table fridge, haha!

Beginnings of a Shakespeare Table Quilt that I made

Check out my Etsy shop for some of the finished products!