Tuesday, July 31, 2007

London Lesson Number Two: It's Not All About Me!

This week I'm working on a series of posts that reflect on what I've learned during our time here. Go here for London Lesson Number One. But now, it's time for London Lesson Number Two:

It's Not All About Me!

Now, you might be surprised that as a mom to three young children that this was a new lesson to me. Well, to be honest, it's not a new lesson. It's one that God has been teaching me for around six years now, ever since I brought home my first little person, but I've not seemed to learn it well. So, for this particular lesson, apparently I needed the hands-on field trip experience! And hopefully after this experience I will not only have learned it, but I will live it.

One of the things I realized quickly after arriving here was that I was going to have no help with the children, at least for a while. I was used to having help with them once a week with a babysitter and then at least once a week for a date night when one of the grandparents took over. In fact, one of the things that I prayed the most about before coming here, and even had friends praying for, was a great person to watch the children for me on occasion so that I could get away. I thought perhaps that after we moved away from Central London, and into a less transient and more family friendly area of London, it would be easier to find someone. My line of thinking at the time went something like this: "As soon as we find a neighborhood and know our neighbors, I'll find someone." Or, "As soon as we get into a church, God will make clear the person He's chosen to help me out during this time." Then there was, "Perhaps there is a way to find a college girl by posting an ad at the University of East London (which is not far from us)." My most desperate attempt came when I asked a girl from the pharmacy where I might meet a girl similar in age to hers who might want to babysit. She was no help whatsoever. Desperate, I called a phone number that I had found in the library for a service that was supposed to match caregivers with families in the area. She was quite helpful and told me that what I was looking for was a (very part-time) nanny.

You might be wondering why a woman like me would need a babysitter. I don't have a "job" after all. I am a stay-at-home mom. To be honest, it's just a time when I know that I can have time away from the screaming masses. A time to recharge my mom-batteries. A time to focus on something other than changing the next diaper, refereeing the inevitible argument, and making yet one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also do ministry work during this time, very often meeting with other ladies who lead in our Bible study to encourage and sharpen each other, etc. So, this time is valuable to me. One of my favorite hangouts on "my day" is Panera. Just me, my Bible, my journal and some warm broccoli cheese soup. Or many times, I end up at Barnes and Noble, pouring over the latest Leadership or Creating Keepsakes magazine, while sipping a mocha from Starbucks. And I don't have to share my mocha with anyone else! When our time here began to become a reality and not just a "what if", what I began to be most concerned about was not having any time away. Ever. No grandmas to watch children. No babysitter. Nada. What about all those places that I might want to visit without children? I dreamed of seeing great art, lunching in cafes, and people watching at Trafalger Square, while writing lots and lots of earth-shattering, life-transforming stuff that the Christian masses, or at least the Bible study girls, would praise me for.

Well, long story short, the babysitter never happened. I tried. I even considered calling the lady back about the part time nanny. But, there were some problems with that. One of which being, "Who in the world am I leaving my children with?" was a question that kept echoing in my mind. Back home, I am lucky to live around lots of family and friends, many of whom I trust implicitly with my children. All of the babysitters I've had on "my day" are friends from church. I know them. I trust them. My children love them. When faced with the prospect of leaving my children in the care of someone that I knew very little about, with the exception of references, I was more than a bit concerned. Besides, I was learning to do without, and to take them places I would rarely or never take all three of them if we were at home. Places like the grocery store. Every. Single. Day.

Yep. London Lesson Number Two for me became, "It's Not All About You." Sometimes, (okay often), I whined to God about it, especially early on. And, my husband heard more whining than any man should Have to about how very difficult it was to be around the children all. the. time. without a break. I sang him quite the martyr-song. And sometimes, I still do. I have gotten out of the house a few times. And those times have been so wonderful. I have been truly thankful for them. I certainly can't take them for granted here!

Way back before I was a mother, my own mother gave me a little book that would forever become one of my favorites. It was one of those little gifty-type books that you see in all the Christian bookstores. To be honest, on the outside, it looked like pure feel-good fluff, the kind of book that I would usually turn my nose up to! But, oh, the treasures within its pages! It was actually the text of a very old sermon by an English preacher named Henry Drummond. And it is an exposition on the love chapter in 1 Corinthians. What challenges lay in each and every sentence of this little gem. I encourage you to go here and read it through in its entirety, because recently I was reading it again and I think it applies to parenting above any other human relationship. Consider this quote mined from its riches: "What was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practicing. Though perfect we read that he learned obedience. He increased in favor with God and man. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of it's never ceasing cares, it's petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sorid souls you have to live and work with. Above all do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more and ceases not for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is the practice which God appoints you; and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind and courteous. Do not grudge the hand that is moulding the still too shapeless image within you. It is growing more beautiful though you see it not. And every touch of temptation may add to its perfection. Therefore keep in the midst of life."

I've learned what it means to "wash feet" here, to be in the "carpenter's shop", so to speak. I've often been reminded here that Jesus was a servant. What most amazes me about his servanthood is that Jesus never complained. Even when he was being crushed by the masses. Even when a woman touched him on his way to heal someone else. Even when the masses needed food. Again. He never complained but instead, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross." (Phillipians 2:6-8)

No, this experience has not been all about me. It's been about my husband and his job. It's been about my children. It's been about molding me. It's been all about Him.

I Fixed It!

That London Lesson Number One post was driving me crazy. I couldn't stand to look at it because there were no paragraph breaks! So, I tried what Emily said to do, and that didn't work. Then, I tried what Cyndi said and...it worked! So, if you can go back and read it now with some paragraph breaks if you like. I always feel quite overjoyed when I fix something on my blog, being the internet illiterate and all. Thanks Emily and Cyndi for the help!

Stay tuned for London Lesson Number Two later today...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

F.B. Meyer on Bible Study

"The Divine Teacher must have fixed and uninterrupted hours for meeting with His scholars. His Word must have our freshest and brightest thoughts. We must give Him our best, the first fruits of our days. Hence, there is no time for Bible study like the early morning, for we cannot give such undivided attention to the holy thoughts that glisten like diamonds on its pages after we have opened our letters, glanced through the paper, and joined in the prattle of the breakfast table. The manna had to be gathered before the dew was off and the sun was up; otherwise it melted."

Or the bolded words re-worded for this Bible-lovin' 2007-livin' girl:

"...after we have read all our email, read all our favorite blogs in our bloglines list, and made an attempt to put together a healthy breakfast for ourselves and our children..."

Missin' My Girl

Okay, so if you're not a dog person (Cindy and Jen!), then you definitely won't get this post. But I was overwhelmed with joy to see this photo of my sweet Mitzie-Dog this afternoon. We have some wonderful friends living in our house while we're away. They are amazingly also taking care of our 13 year old epileptic, loose-bladdered, stinky and yet adorable weiner dog. Oh, we miss her so! Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. We seem to have a way of forgetting all the annoyances and looking back with fondness of her warm body sleeping under the covers and the way she runs to the door when we get home. She is definitely someone we're looking forward to getting home to!

A Jumbled Mess

No, I am not talking about my mind! Have you been talking to my husband? I am referring to my first London Lessons post. What's up? Why won't blogger separate into paragraphs now? I'm sure it's all operator error. Sorry for the jumbled mess. I've attemped to fix it several times, but to no avail. Can anyone help a girl out?

London Lesson Number One: God Cares More About Who I Am Than What I Do

Since we're on the downslope of things here in London, I'm working on processing through some of the things I've learned here.

Here is London Lesson Number One:

God cares more about who I am that what I do.

Now, this is a hard lesson for little ol' go-getter me. I am naturally a person who wants to do and see it all, as is evidenced by the list of the places we've seen since arriving here on March 1. However, being here, with no other responsibilities except that of being a wife and a mama, I am beginning to see this.

Sometimes, I can get wrapped up in all the things that I think I should be doing. And while these indeed may be worthwhile pursuits, I am realizing that I can't do it all. I also get caught up in all the roles that I fill rather than pursuing Jesus Himself in living out those roles. To be quite honest, until I had children of my own, I really thought I could be super-woman. I relished my identity as a teacher. I wanted to be the best teacher that the world had ever known. I was quite certain that my training and identity as a teacher would help me breeze through motherhood, filling my children's heads and hearts with wonderful knowledge and a love for Jesus. In retrospect, may I just say, "HOW STUPID"?! But, even though these certainly were not conscious thoughts, they were there nonetheless. Fast forward a few years to now, and it has become quite apparent that I am not supermom. I am an imperfect cracked piece of clay pottery, who happens to have given birth to three imperfect cracked pieces of clay pottery. How to remedy this situation? It could get really depressing, couldn't it?

But wait! Let's go back to London Lesson Number One: God cares more about who am am than about what I do. God doesn't give two hoots about my secular identity as a teacher or a mom or a wife or a ministry leader. He cares about me -- Joni. He calls me His daughter. He calls me His friend. He calls me His love. He wants to me know that -- really know that -- deep down in my heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Or as Beth Moore says, deep down into my spiritual marrow. Seeing how my God loves me this way is something that moves me to BE more like him. Not to take on another role, or title, but to sit at his feet. To be changed by Him. Even His Name, "I AM", has imbedded into it the meaning of being. After all, He didn't call Himself the "I Do"!

I seriously had this conversation with Him one day at church. (Now, you're gonna see how "messed up" my mind can be, people!) I was fretting about what others might think I should be when I returned home. Should I be a woman of the world now, completely cosmopolitan, and cognizant in European trends? Would they be disappointed to know how very much I'd "failed" in my belief system here, floundering and depressed and self-pitying, and self-loathing? I determined in my mind to do a little more shopping before going home so that I could be what people must think a former expatriate spouse could look like from the outside. (Do you see a pattern here? Again, taking on the role of expatriate instead of just being His daughter?) Anyway, I distinctly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak into my heart and mind, "Joni, I didn't bring you over here to become more cosmopolitan! I brought you over here to make you more like my Son." Oh. Yeah.

I am learning to be in His presence, moment-by-moment here. I am learning that even if I look like I have it all together on the outside, the inside of my cup is so filthy. I am learning that no matter how many verses I've memorized, and how many ladies come to our Bible study on Friday mornings, and how many friends I have or don't have...none of that matters --to Him. He wants to change my heart --mine. He is so not interested in changing what things look like on the outside. Think about what He said to the Pharisees in Matt 23:25-26:

"Woe to you, scribes and teachers of the law, you hypocrites. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind pharisee! First, clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean!"

Ouch! Yeah, that about hits that whole cosmopolitan girl thing right on the head! But it emphasizes the point quite clearly. Here's another verse to illustrate the same concept, from 1 Samuel 16:7a:

"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart."

So, to put those verses into the context of London Lesson Number One, the Pharisees (whom Jesus was referring to in the Matthew verses) and the brother of David (whom God was referring to in the 1 Samuel verses) had the appearance of the appropriate response. They filled their roles quite properly. But, their heart conditions were not what God was looking for. Instead, he chose people that spent more time being with Him, than doing for Him. He chose a shepherd, who spent hours writing psalms of love to Him and he chose a rag-tag bunch of sinners, whom he called disciples, some of whom no one in established religious society would even be around. David and the disciples wanted Him!

My Father doesn't need me to be a perfect mama. He wants me to be a listening, and repentant, and transformed mama. He doesn't need me to be super-ministry-leader-extraordinaire. He needs me to be a Spirit-filled servant leader. He doesn't need me to be the have-it-all-together girl. I'm his daughter. And all He asks is that I spend a lot of time with my Papa, sitting on His lap, being in His presence. And in that lap, and through His transforming power and presence, I can be who the I Am has made me to be.

Nearing the End

We're nearing the end of our time here in London. Our time here has been shorter than we originally thought, but not by much --a few months really. As we near the end, I'm reflecting on what I've learned throughout our time here. Although I know it will take time to know and understand all that God has shown and taught me here, there are certain things that God has begun to show me that I already somewhat understand. I'm working on a series of posts about these learnings. Stay tuned. I'm hoping to post the first one today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hulling Strawberries

Tried this today. It worked like a charm. I love things that make my life easier!

She Drives a Hard Bargain

While trying to convince me why she might need to leave her room during her in-room playtime, DD4 said this:

"Mom, can I please go get the Minnie Mouse dress for Bambee? He can't be naked all day!"

'Nough said.

Bambee is her nighttime cuddle and best friend since birth. Granted he is a very dingy, thread-bare, and mangy stuffed toy, but he is her love. I myself am concerned that he may be a bit confused about his sexuality, being forced to dress up as Minnie Mouse all day.

Yes, I live with someone who is this funny all the time, and doesn't even know it. That girl's got enough blog fodder in her for years to come.

What I Do I Don't Want To Do

How is it that a mother can spend an hour in her quiet time, reading the Scriptures and praying; she can see wonderful and delightful things in the Word; she can commune with God; and then, when she steps foot out of her bed, she can be the meanest, grumpiest mom in the world? Tell me. How can this be? Lord, change me.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Woman of Contrasts

DD4: "Mom, can we please go somewhere today?"

Me: "Well, where were you thinking you'd like to go?"

DD4: "Well, I want to go to Disneyland Paris and then Paris."

Me: "No, we won't be going to Paris today."

DD4: "Okay. Well, then can we go to Woolworth's please and get some pick-n-mix?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Temptation - Something to Think About

"We gain nothing by our decision to renounce earthly things if we do not abide by it, but continue to be attracted by such things and allow ourselves to keep thinking about them. By constantly looking back like Lot's wife towards what we have renounced, we make clear our attachment to it. For she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt, remaining to this day an example to the disobedient. She symbolizes the force of habit, which draws us back again after we have tried to make a definitive act of renunciation. By habitually thinking about what we have left behind, we undermine our determination to advance and we are pulled in the opposite direction, returning to our old sins. Habit may be shaken and forced to give way, but it is not permanently changed, unless through prolonged effort we retrace our steps." - Neilos the Ascetic

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The children and I made the long journey to church together today sans Daddy. Daddy has been working all weekend and so we went alone. Before I go on, I must tell you that getting to the church that we've chosen to attend while here takes some time and various modes of public transportation. We walk 12 minutes to the Underground station, we get on the tube. We are on the tube for 15 stops (anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on how the service is going that day), then off the tube, up and escalator and a flight of stairs. We walk out of the tube station and down a block, to catch the bus. We are on the bus for about ten minutes. Then we walk about 3 blocks to church. So, in all honestly, I was thinking about bowing out on church today. It all seemed too daunting with the three littles. But, in that way only He can, He wooed me there. I wanted to worship Him today, in a church, with other believers.

The trip this morning went off without a hitch -- the service on the Central Line was good. The bus was there fairly quickly after we got to the stop. We arrived at the appropriate bus stop with 45 minutes to spare, which is exactly as I'd planned it. I wanted to spend the morning breakfasting with the children at our favorite patesserie, Valerie's. We love Valerie's. When you arrive at the place, there are always tons of tourists gawking at the outside windows at the absolutely breathtaking visions of cakes, petit fours, cookies, croissants, etc. I'm always amazed that more tourists don't actually go IN to the place, because it's so wonderful and so inviting. I love the atmosphere. Since it's a French chain, there are many Frenchman working there. They are eager to serve you. One of my favorites is a middle-aged gentleman who always greets you with a smile and such courtesy. (So there to all those people who think the French are rude!). Today, he saw me struggling to fold my buggy, came up behind me, and said, "No, no, no madam. Just leave it up. I push it over here. See?" I loved the man in that moment. Another thing about Valeries is they love children and always go ga-ga over them, to my own children's great delight. They even offer to bring them warm milk (which they always decline, thank you very much). Our waiter today was fabulous. He was absolutely taken with the youngest, and she loved it. I couldn't even tell you how many high-fives, and nose pinches each of the children got. But they lavished the attention. When we were getting ready to leave, the youngest said, "That man funny, mommy!" The chocolate croissants there are to-die-for; huge and flakey and covered in confectioner's sugar, not to mentioned drizzled in chocolate. The orange juice is freshly squeezed. A funny thing that my sweet dd4 said as we were leaving today was, "Thank you means 'my pleasure' here doesn't it mama?" Which, translated means, instead of saying "You're welcome", they say, "My pleasure here." Funny little things she notices.

I was feeling pretty good about things so far. The trip had gone well. We'd had a nice breakfast in our favorite Sunday place. We were on time. We headed into the church and soon realized that it was a family Sunday, which meant that the children would be worshipping with the adults today and that there would be no Sunday classes for the children. I decided that I was up for the challenge, even though I doubted how much actual "worship" I'd get to participate in. HTB always has the children in the service for some time, usually until the "Peace" is given. So my children regularly participate in the song worship part of the service. Today, though, they'd be expected to sit through the sermon as well. The song time went well. My littlest one has taken to twirling in the aisles during the song service and it is adorable. Many people love to watch her and often comment that they can't believe she doesn't get dizzy.

I want to stop right here and say that I enjoy having my children in service with us. No, worship is not the same with them there. I can't focus completely on the service as I can without them there. But that's okay. My friend, Stacy, has had some excellent posts and comments about having our children in worship with us. She's definitely given me a lot to think about in this area. And I agree that having my children in the service with me serves many purposes. But...it's still hard for me not to be selfish about the whole matter. Here it can be even worse, as I think sometimes, "This is the only hour and a half I have to myself." Oh well. I have growth to make in this area. Obviously. Because today I ended up in tears by the end of the service.

The message was on distraction of all things. Distraction. Now, that's a funny little joke God. So, the text was the classic "Mary/Martha" passage. The speaker, Andy Emerton, did a great job of not belittling Martha, which I find is often the case in these sermons. Instead, he shared that we need to learn to balance distraction (of the human variety) and devotion. Obviously distraction like computers, email, work, etc. is not what he was talking about here. He was talking about distractions of those we're in relationship with. Boy, could I relate there. Because just as he was sharing his words, and throughout most of the service, my children distracted me. Mainly, my midddle daughter who seemed to want all the attention that I was trying to devote to Jesus, devoted to her. And by the end of the service, I became weary of it. Weary to the point of tears and talking to God something like this, "Is this a joke, God? Come on! A sermon on distraction when the whole service, I've been distracted by my own children. I wanted so badly to come here to focus on you, but instead, I've cleared my child out of the way of countless people trying to get through the aisle, listened to at least 10 requests to use the bathroom, picked up countless pieces of literature that has been dropped onto the floor from the pew in front of us, and turned down a constant stream of requests to sit on my lap from my middle child. Is this some kind of a cruel joke, this whole sermon on distraction?!"

The still small voice reminded me that He, of all people, understands distractions. He met me in the ending song worship time, reminding me of the constant clamor of the people who followed Him everywhere during his three years of public ministry. He even reminded me that He understood the bickering that seems to go in our home quite frequently these days between siblings. He reminded me that He sees.

No, the service didn't turn out quite the way I'd planned. But Jesus met me there. And He taught me what I really needed to know. He understands. He sees. That makes all the difference to this worn out and distracted mommy right now. This knowing exactly what I need even when I don't, this meeting me in my current circumstances --that's what I love about my Savior.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Am Jane Jetson

**Although this may sound like an advert for Skype, it's not. I simply want to inform others of the wonderful blessing it's been to us being so far from home.

If you haven't heard of Skype yet, I'm here to tell you...it's awesome. Skype has saved us hundreds of pounds on phone bills, I'm quite sure. Skype is a free downloadable program that allows you to communicate with others who have also downloaded the program through audio and/or video. Through Skype, I get to see my Mom every single day all on my computer --very Jetson, I know!

Nearly every day, my mom Skypes me before going to work. This has been a God-send, as my children had never been far from home, unless you count 10 day trips to Disney world. And, for that matter, I had never been too far from home either. So, not seeing Grammy for months would have been a really, really bad deal for us. Just seeing my mom nearly every day has gotten me through some very rough patches here. And it's allowed my mom, Queen of the Grammies, to stay in close communication with her beloved grandchildren. Each day, the children can see and talk to Grammy. They can also show her their latest art masterpieces or their favorite postcard from a recent destination. Or like this morning, they can show her all their new boo-boos and new pink nail polish.

To get Skype, you just need to download the free program. If you just want to talk to people without seeing them, you are all set to do so after you download the program. You just sit at your computer and talk just as if you were talking on the phone, but you don't have to hold a handset which is really nice for busy mommies who often have to rescue people, or break up arguments, or get two-year-olds out of things they are not supposed to be into, all while they are chatting. Ah yes, the beauty of a multi-tasking mommy! But, I digress. Now, if you want to see those you are conversing with, you (and they) need to buy a little web-cam to pop onto the top of the computer. Install it and voila! You are officially George or Jane Jetson!

Some of the people who would definitely benefit from Skype are military families, expatriate families, missionary families or others that are away from family and friends, either internationally or not. So, what are you waiting for? If there is anyone in your life that you'd love to talk to more frequently, but cost is a hinderance to that, head on over to Skype to remedy that situation. And that is why I am Jane Jetson!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Do They Offer Blogging 101?

I'm updating my blog with labels, which means that the posts will now be categorized. This will make it nice if you're trying to look back to a specific post on a specific topic. It will also help newcomers to the blog find something specific that they might be searching for. However, being the self-taught blogger that I am (read: blog illiterate), I am doing this by going into each post and republishing them with the new labels. I hope this is not really annoying if you read the blog through bloglines. If "new" posts keep popping up in your bloglines, and they are really old ones, my new little labeling project is probably the reason. So sorry in advance!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Delighting In Imitation

I'm reading with my youngest tonight. She does what is her latest cute thing. "Me read to you now, mommy. Me read it, 'kay?"

I happily oblige. I love to watch her toddler attempts at story. She holds the book upside down as we begin. She, who has just heard the story, "reads" to me the same line over and over again. "Once upon a time, first baby bear has some messes." She turns the page. "Once upon a time, first baby bear has some messes." She goes on like this with each progressive page --still reading upside down. She looks at me after every single page, anticipating my wonder at her newfound skill. She speaks with lisps. I think it's quite adorable. I enjoy just watching her revel in this "reading". I gaze at her expressions as she reads, so full of life. I take in the look of joy and wonder and excitement on her face as she practices what she's seen me do over and over and over again in her short little life. Who knows how many books I've read since I gave birth to the first child nearly 6 years ago now?

While she continues, I notice that the book, of quite an average size, takes up her entire lap. Her little half-painted toenails are all that peek out at the bottom half of her body. Her chubby little torso all that is revealed from the top of the book on up. Of course, being only two years old, she uses the pictures for her main meaning-making. She finds no use whatsoever for the words. Her understandings of the pictures are quite simplistic. The man in black is bad. The little bears are good. The things she utters are not profound, but I delight in them. Because I'm her mama, and she's growing up. I think she's brilliant and adorable. I love her attempts to imitate. I wonder at her efforts to understand, to make meaning, to share what she's doing with me.

And then it hits me. Does my Father look at me this way? So often, I think that I must be better, do better, do more. But, does the Father really think that? Or does He, like me, just revel in all that his little daughter is attempting? Does He wonder over me the same way that I wonder over my little child? After all, I'm his little child.

I think back to the reading scenario. Why did I not scold my daughter that the book was upside down, that the words were not related to the story at all, that her attempts at pronunciation were lacking? Because she's learning. She's growing. And growth takes time. And growth is borne out of mistakes and trial and error. And because I think she's so darn cute! Could it be that my Father might possibly think the same of me?

Like my own daughter, do I look like a little toddler to the Father, barely big enough to hold the Book? Does He too think my attempts at explaining, at meaning-making, at understanding are wonderful, even if they are a little off-base sometimes? So often, I think He must think I am childish, foolish, weak, and lazy. But yet, I would never think this about my daughter's first attempts at reading. Does the Father just patiently reveal His same truths over and over to me, just waiting me to understand the full meaning of His truth in the same way I will read the book over and over again to my daughter, until she can narrate the story on her own?

Thank you, Father, that You gave us a Story --the living Word, Jesus Christ. And the Word gave us pictures, and parables, and explanations of what love is, through His example. Oh to hold on to this image of my daughter! Does the Father hold onto each image of me? Does He store up his own "videos" as I grow? Does He look back and see? Now that makes this daughter smile.

Note to Self: Put Some Logic Into Next Year's Curriculum

On the way to the store, I asked my middle daughter, who is 4, to stop running so far ahead of me. I once again informed her that it was dangerous to get too far ahead of mommy by running so fast. "You need to come back here and hold the buggy please and stay right by mommy, now." Now, understand, please that I was behind the child --walking. Still, she replied, "But mom, I can't go that fast!"

What?! So, said child can run quickly in front of mommy, but can't walk beside her because mommy is too fast?! On second thought, after figuring out how to communicate this story, dear readers, I think I might need the logic curriculum myself!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Being Paid in British Pounds Sterling

"Our primary cultural activity in London was changing money. We had to do this a lot because the dollar is very weak. Europeans use the dollar primarily to apply shoe polish. So everyday we'd go to one of the money-changing places...and they we'd look for something to eat that had been invented in this century, such as pizza, and we'd buy three slices for what we later realized was $247.50, and then we'd change some money again. Meanwhile, the Japanese tourists were exchanging their money for items such as Westminster Abbey." --Dave Barry

Did You Know...

...that "Sir Topham Hat" from Thomas the Tank Engine is actually called "The Fat Director" in the Thomas stories and in the English versions of the programme? Isn't America just so P.C., editing for us?!

Simple Theology

After our morning devotional time (where we'd read about the resurrection), my son shared these thoughts.

DS5: "Mom, I noticed that the Bible is like a long, long, long fairy tale. Because it has lots of happy endings and then we go to heaven.

Ahhh, the faith of a little child.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Did Some Damage at Borders This Weekend

I got away to Borders this weekend. I love this Borders. It's on Charing Cross Road, which is the "book street" in London. Foyles, one of the largest and oldest bookshops in Europe, is across the street from Borders, so I always make a stop over there as well. Foyles has a unique and fun history and is a really quirky place. Go to this site to see more.

Anyway, I got several books at Borders as they were having one of their famous "buy one, get one half off" sales. I found several that had been on my list, so I was excited to get some good bargains.

Here's what I ended up with:

*The London Orbital by Iain Sinclair
*Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir (Now I can take it off my "I Want" list!)
*Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
*Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox
*Creating Keepsakes July issue, which incidentally, I can usually only find at Borders, and each time I get it, it has a little yellow sticker on it that says, "U.S. Import". Funny how you take little things like your favorite magazines for granted.

All of these books will go into my Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge pile. I'm currently reading Sarum by Edward Rutherford for the challenge and have gotten stuck in the chapter on the Roman occupation. I need to trudge through, however, as the first few chapters were very engaging, and I hope that will continue. It's interesting to see how Rutherford takes the Salisbury Plain and weaves it into the stories of generations of families, or at least people groups, for thousands of years.

I'll continue to keep you posted as to my Sarum progress and also as to my progress on the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge as well.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Gastronomical Revelation

We have very, very deep conversations at lunch. Want proof?

DD4: "Mom, why aren't you having yogurt?"

Me: "Because I don't care for yogurt."

DD4: "But kids care for yogurt, right? And grown ups don't care for yogurt. And I care for yogurt and cheese and crackers and I even care for crust now!"

I'm so excited. If this is true, there might just be one meal that we get through that at least one of my sweet darlings does not remind me about their distaste for the loathesome crust.

One can only hope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is It Weird When...

...your daughter is still wearing her Christmas jammies in the middle of July?!? At home, we're used to 90-plus degree days in July. Here, we're lucky to get up in the high sixties. So, hubby and I were laughing tonight at the fact that the baby was still wearing her winter jammies, her red and green Christmas ones, to boot. Our family and friends that see photos of the children here think it's weird that they are still wearing jackets in most of them. And in our minds, it's still March weather at home, just like when we left. But I can't decide which I prefer...so stinking hot that you have to go to the pool just to cool off, or so doggone chilly that you still need long sleeves and long pants in July?

We Interrupt My Efforts at Simplicity, Social Justice, and Fair Trade For This Teeny Little Sparkly Contest

Here's a great little contest for some blingy ear buds. I don't need them. But they're free if I win. So there.

The Value of Repetition

"I know that to paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its way in that particular spot and that is why I am working on the same motifs over and over again, four or six times even." -Claude Monet


I was disciplining my daughter for an act of direct disobedience this morning. After the consequence, I got down close to her little face, looked in her eyes and quietly said, among other things, "When you disobey, you can hurt yourself. And when you disobey, you hurt your heart." My tenderhearted girl was immediately sorry for her sin, hugged me, and asked for forgiveness. She then asked if she could color. I went back to my dishes. A few minutes later, I asked her what she was drawing, and she replied, "The cross. And it's beautiful, Mommy."

Yes, sweet girl. Yes, it is.

"But now, giving Himself completely at the cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence." Colossians 1:22

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Social Justice and Preschoolers

"He has shown you, o man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

Something that you seem to hear alot about while living in the UK is the concept of fair trade and social justice. I think this is a great thing. Just recently on the BBC News, there was a group of school children that were investigating the chocolate trade in Africa and how chocolate companies use child slave labor. The children were then allowed to question a leader in the chocolate industry in Britain about the policies. She answered their questions with honesty and respect. Fair trade is a big thing here as well. And if the option is available for me here, I usually purchase the fair trade choice instead of the alternative.

Our church here is involved in social justice issues as well. And I guess because of these two things and the fact that I'm reading through the Old Testament (Proverbs right now...today I remember lots of verses about honest scales and justice and righteousness), I'm thinking a lot about how the choices that we make as a family affect those in other countries and situations. And I'm considering the fact that if I do indeed call myself a follower of Jesus, how exactly does that bear itself out when it comes to the way that I use financial resources?

Tonight we had a conversation at the dinner table about these matters. Now, you might think this funny, but my little ones understood social justice on some level when we were finished with this discussion. But what is even more important to me is that I saw in their little hearts a tenderness toward people in difficult circumstances. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey guys, I've been thinking about something lately. You know, there are lots of little children all over the world that don't have food or clothes or homes or parents to take care of them."

Children: "Yeah."

Me: "Well, I've been reading in the Bible lately about how God is a 'just' God. Do you know what that means?"

Children: "No, mommy. What does that mean?"

Me: "Well, it sort of means 'fairness'. God wants people that have things to share with people that don't. In fact, that's why God blesses people with things --so that they can share with others. God wants governments to be just and fair. He wants rich people and poor people to be treated equally, which often isn't the case."

Children: "Oooohhh." (This really appealed to them as they LOVE things to be fair.)

Me: "And guys, do you know what I was thinking? I was thinking about all of the stuff that we have. We really have way too much stuff. So many toys that we don't play with them. And I've been thinking about the Build-A-Bears. I love the Build-A-Bears and they are fun. It's fun to buy them new clothes and things, but guys, do you think it's okay for our pretend teddy bears to have lots of clothes when real children all over the world don't have any clothes at all, much less toys like bears to dress up?"

Children (With great disdain): "No, mommy! That's sad that kids don't have clothes."

Me: "Yes, I agree. So, guys, we're not going to be buying anymore teddy bear clothes unless it's a really, really special occaision, okay? But what we're going to do is buy clothes for real children instead. Children that really need clothes, unlike our teddy bears, who really don't need clothes. Okay guys?"

Children: "Yes!"

They were so excited. Folks, they got it. These little people were so empathetic towards their fellow little people across the globe. What happens to us as we get older? Why do we forget this?

You see folks, I'm not here pretending that choosing not to buy more teddy bear clothes is an answer to the problem, and that is part of what I think we get wrapped up in. And I most certainly am not here to pat our family on the back. If anything, we should be ashamed that we haven't done more and sooner. I know that the problem is HUGE, so much bigger than any one individual or group could solve. But what I do think is that in the realization of our smallness, we get paralyzed. I know that I do. And I think that one little person doing one little thing can't make a difference. But that is a lie. One little person can make a difference for one other person, even if just one time. And, I dare say, for a lifetime if truly committed.

I've been asking myself lately, "Do I really need more stuff?!" See, my non-Jesus-y self likes my stuff. But, as I look at my latest purchases lately, I don't get joy out of them like I used to. It seems that lately, I can't enjoy a new ring or purse or candle when I know that things like this are going on. Every day. Knowing Jesus compels me to want to be a part of the solution. And I'm definitely going to be thinking and writing more about this. How about you?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Question for You

Exactly how many times exactly does a woman have to be reminded that it rains every day in London and using the clothesline is a silly, silly proposition? You'd think I'd learn, but every day I'm making a mad dash out the back door to yank the dry (but yet to be rescued) clothes off the line as the rain keeps pounding down, down, down. How many times, I ask you?

Paris, Part Trois

**For Parts 1 and 2 of our Paris adventure, click here and here, respectively.

This was the most anticipated part of the trip for me...our day into Paris. Initially, we had decided to do 2 days in Paris, but we settled for one after realizing that yet another day away from Disney would be a hard-sell for the children.

There's a terrific tourist information center just outside the RER station at La Marnee Vallee which is literally steps away from the Disney Parks complex. We started our day by heading in there for some specific transportation information and for some discount tickets and advice as well. The lady there was so helpful. She gave us great advice about what to see and do. She directed us to the bus tour that was most appropriate for what we wanted to see. And she ended up having discounted tickets for us for the Louvre and the bus tour. Plus, she told us that the Rodin Museum and Gardens, one of the things we planned to see, was closed on Mondays, saving us time, money, and a headache. I was definitely a bit bummed about the Rodin Museum, because I had heard it was quite a child-friendly place, and that his most famous sculpture, "The Thinker" was in the gardens, and therefore quite accessible for the children. I was hoping to get a great photo, but it was not to be.

We headed into the city on the RER and knew exactly where to get off. I must say that we were a bit nervous about taking the Metro (subway) and RER (train) because of the language barrier. We decided to get off right where the bus tour began and then to stick to the bus tour routes, hopping off and on as we wanted to see the sites. We got off quite easily and found our bus stop as well. But before we boarded the tour bus, I had planned to find the one and only "Build-A_Bear" workshop in all of Paris. I had read online that it was located in a mall known as Galleries Lafayette, and it was quite close to the tour bus stop. So, we headed off in search of bears. We had to ask about three times as to where the Galleries were, but we finally found it. It is quite a sight to behold. Floors and floors of (very expensive) merchandise, all in a beautifully decorated building. It was so lovely and gilded that it felt like we were walking around inside a lovely jewel. And even though it was a sight to behold, alas, we found no "Build-A-Bear".

After that, we headed to the bus stop for the beginning of our bus tour. We started off at the Opera House, which is a lovely building. We didn't get out here, but did enjoy looking. Our next stop was the Louvre. We did get out here. Visiting the Louvre was a true dream come true for this art lovin' girl. I was dying to get inside what is arguably the world's most famous museum. And I definitely wanted to see the world's most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa. We stood outside the museum in awe of its beauty. We snapped a few photos of the fam in front of the I.M. Pei "pyramid" (Incidentally, if you're reading this from my hometown, our university's art museum was designed by Pei as well.). The pyramid is an amazing piece of architecture, inside and out. My children were mesmerized as they stood under the pyramid from the inside because of the light flooding in, but also because of the many little rainbows they could see which were caused by the reflection of the glass.

We headed off first to the Carrousel De Louvre because the children were starving. We found a large food court and got some French pastries. Then we had the obligatory bathroom break. (Just a side note for those of you planning to do a lot or even a little bit of travel with young children...you'll spend equal amounts of time in the potty and at doing the actual sightseeing. Just a fact of life, I suppose! I can't tell you how many bathrooms we visited in France!) Lastly, we did some quick shopping at a few of the stores in the Carrousel. My favorite store was called Les Enfants De Musee, where there were tons of art books, (really wish my kids spoke French), a nice selection of English books, and some wonderful games. We picked up "Katie and the Mona Lisa". We love the Katie books. Our first one was "Katie in London", which I had purchased for the kids while hubby and I were away on our initial look-see trip in January. So, the children were excited to find Katie. And I was excited that she was visiting Mona as well. Who knew? Then we also picked up a game called Art Memo, which I had seen in the states and a beautiful lotto game of famous French sites. I also found a terrific puzzle for my puzzle lovin' boy of the Eiffel Tower. It's more like a mind bender puzzle and not the piece by piece variety. Anyway, we plunked down some major euros at that little store.

Mona awaited us, so we headed back towards the museum to behold her, but we were caught in a huge security queue. Not being the patient or embarrassable gal, I went over to the man at the queue and pointed to our stroller. He quickly passed us through. I felt not one iota of guilt about this as the stroller is most usually a major headache when we travel and sightsee. So, we got back into the art portion of the museum and went in search of Mona Lisa. Really, with three young children, besides seeing Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, we knew that anything else we'd get to see would be a bonus. Since we live by so many fabulous museums, I've learned that we can't see everything, without boring the kids to death. So, we passed by lots and lots of fabulous art. But, on the way, we did stop and see this one, by Jacques-Louis David. The mere size of this painting is astounding. And the detail is fabulous. I love what Napoleon himself is said to have exclaimed when he saw the immense canvas, "What depth, what truth! This is not art, we can step into your painting!" The dignitaries and others pictured in the painting are actually reconizable. And the work took David two whole years to complete. So, that was our bonus piece.

When we arrived at the Mona Lisa, she was being mobbed by people. This painting is so famous and popular, that there are multiple security guards for just her. She is much smaller than I thought she'd be. And honestly, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But maybe that's because I couldn't get that close. One interesting thing that happened when we were there was that a woman got kicked out of the museum for attempting to photograph the Mona Lisa. Many were taking photos, which was a clearly marked no-no, but this lady was filming on a video camera behind a friend's head. I guess the fact that she would not stop filming when asked to and the fact that she kept arguing with the security guard may have been the reason for her getting the boot. Hmmm...I wonder what my children will remember most, Mona or the obnoxious photographer who made such a fuss?

Next stop...the Venus de Milo.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge

There is a great travel reading challenge going on over at "A Life in Books". I'm joining up. Here are the books I've chosen and the alternates in case I change my mind or can't find the ones listed. I am definitely an "it's my perogative to change my mind" kind of girl, so alternates will probably be utilized. ;)

My Top Six:
Sarum by Edward Rutherford (England)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hoesseini (Afghanistan)
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson (England)
Three Weeks With My Brother by Micah and Nicholas Sparks (3 week world trip)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austin (Bath, England)
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa)

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (France)
Glastonbury Tor by Leanne Hardy (England)
I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson (U.S.)
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Somalia and Netherlands)

The rules for the challenge and the Mr. Linky list are above if you're interested. Let me know if you decide to join up as well.

Places We've Visited Thus Far

Cities, Towns, or Sites

Broadstairs beach
Bovey Tracy
Ashdown Forest (aka 100 Aker Woods for Pooh fans)
East Grinstead

Gardens, Homes, Castles, or Palaces

Sheffield Park Gardens
Buckland Abbey and Gardens
Dover Castle
Hampton Court Palace
Kensington Palace
Buckingham Palace (outside only)
Windsor Castle
Warwick Castle
Tintagel Castle
Tower of London
Shakespeare's Birthplace
Ann Hathaway's Cottage (Shakespeare's Wife)


Natural History Museum (London)
National Gallery (London)
National Portrait Museum (London)
The Louvre (Paris)
Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood (London)
National Maritime Museum (Greenwich)
Royal Observatory (Greenwich)

Parks and Zoos

Hyde Park
Kensington Park
Regent's Park
London Zoo
Battersea Park
Children's Zoo at Battersea Park
St James Park
Green Park
Greenwich Park
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Disneyland Paris Resort


Wellington Monument
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
Arc De Triomphe
Eiffel Tower

Cathedrals or Chapels

St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
Westminster Abbey
Salisbury Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral (outside only)
St. Paul's Cathedral (outside only)

Markets and Shopping

Greenwich Market
Covent Garden Market
Portobello Road Market
Stratford-Upon-Avon Market
Warwick Market
Oxford Street
Brent's Cross
St. Christopher's Place
Marleybone High Street
Galleries Lafayette (Paris)


London Eye
Big Ben and Parlaiment Building
Horse Guards
Changing of the Guard
#10 Downing Street
South Bank

Oh my word! I can't believe how long this list is. I think I'll add it to my sidebar as well and keep updating it. I feel so, so blessed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Literary Girl, She Is

You know you've read lots and lots of books to the baby who starts each and every sentence with "once upon a time."


"Once upon de time, I flied a kite, mom!"

"Once upon de time, I eat a donot, mom!"

"Once upon de time, I goed on a slide!"

Seems that she thinks life is one big fairy tale. But my dream is for her "happily ever after".

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Touch the Hem

We were having one of those moments. I had refereed numerous squabbles throughout the morning. The toy room was littered with toys and my nagging was not motivating the girls to pick them up. My son was in trouble yet again for teasing his sister. All morning, I had managed patience, with the Holy Spirit's help. (I have no patience of my own, mind you). I was making lunch and counting down the moments until rest time, when I could have a few uniterrupted moments to be with the Father, which I so desperately needed. The arguments continued and I felt myself getting more and more angry, bitter, and resentful. I let off steam by yelling at the children. And crying. Lots of tears. Hot tears of anger and self-pity dripped from my cheeks and onto the kitchen floor below.

I remembered back to my time with Jesus just this morning. I thought back to my heart-felt pleas for help with patience and kindness toward my children today. And then, in my anger over the moment's chaos, I started telling Him, yet again, that He hadn't helped me, that He never helped me, that my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling yet again. I begged for more of Him. I knew that I needed Him so overflowing into my poverty-ridden spirit. Even in my hopeless state, I knew that only He could take away the desperate feelings that I was experiencing. The barrenness of my soul has become so apparent in this spiritual desert that I've been inhabiting of late.

I remembered a verse that I'd quoted to my son just this morning, "Nothing is impossible with God". While I was telling God that I couldn't do one more thing, that I could not be patient one more time, He was reminding me that I could. Through Him. I stilled myself in a chair while the children ate. I pressed through the noise, and the hurt feelings and the anger. And the tears kept flowing. No longer tears of anger, bitterness, or resentment. Now, they had turned to tears of repentance. I confessed my sins (yet again) to my forgiving Heavenly Father. He didn't chastise me. He filled me with His sweet Spirit, yet again. Even though I didn't deserve it. I saw my middle daughter looking at me then, wondering what her mama was crying about. And she hugged me and told me how much she loved me. Sweet grace. Sweet grace sent from my Father to be received through my very own child.

As I sat down this afternoon for more time in His presence (seems I can never get enough. If left to my own devices, I implode!), I went to the story of the woman healed from 12 years of bleeding from Luke 8 (40-48). I read it and wept. I am that woman. Sometimes I feel as if I'm bleeding on the inside. Hemmoraging from my own sin. And it seems I'm in a never-ending battle with my flesh. But soon, the Father was reminding me of those moments in the chair at lunchtime. The moments when I had touched the hem of his garment. When I had made the time to be still, desperate for His touch and his healing, His power went out to me, and I was healed --maybe not forever, but certainly for that moment. Joy and peace and hope returned to my soul and I could be the mommy they needed me to be once again.

Are you like the woman who is bleeding? Draw near. Press through. His power is available and He does indeed still heal.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blog Sidebar Update

I just added music to my blog. If you don't like it, or don't want to hear it while you're reading, just scroll down in the sidebar and click the pause button. I love classical music as it soothes my soul and seems to make difficult days easier to bear. Sometimes, all I need is a little classical to be a more cheerful and patient wife and mom. So, whatever your preference, no problem. Be blessed!