Monday, July 27, 2015

Dear Mama, How To Fill Your Cup When Your Hands Are Full

Dear Mama,
So maybe your hands felt full today. Just maybe you got up late on the worst possible day to do so. And you hadn't packed everything the night before....or taken a shower, though you knew you absolute ought to do it the night before, because mornings never go as planned.
Maybe you didn't feel like it, because the lights were out and the water you had to haul into the house in buckets was cold. Maybe you were just ready for a bit of rest after a really long week. The plate's been awfully full lately......
Somehow you thought you had the schedule cleared, but you ended up with people at your house for dinner four nights in a row. All people you like, but four nights in a row? That's a lot. Maybe all week you've felt like your batteries are being slowly drained, and you know the only way they're going to get a recharge is with a good bit of sleep and quiet.

Somehow it doesn't feel like that's going to happen today, though.
Maybe you had high hopes of all the things you were going to get accomplished this last week and all the things you were going to cross off both the paper list for the day and the mental list that is really the forever list that just scrolls on and on and on through your brain.
Maybe you didn't get quite as much crossed off as you'd been hoping.

Maybe your week included things like having to air out the mattress and wash the sheets and quilt three days in a row, because a little person keeps insisting she's gone to the potty before bed, but obviously she's not. Maybe your week had conversations about "vomnit" between a 3 year old and her baby sister, while you were trying to cook supper. Maybe you had scraped knees and scraped foreheads from the usual running around on a concrete compound, and a scraped face from a baby falling out of the parked car onto the dirt road before anyone could make the catch.

Maybe there were bug bites that made an arm swell like a balloon and some weird fungus that won't clear up on another kiddo's arm. Maybe you've had dirty diapers you forgot in your purse and a towel covered in sour milk that accidentally got used to wipe up the table after eating.

Maybe jobs that weren't "supposed" to take that long have stretched late into the night, and "just a few more pages to go" has turned into chapters, and the school books that have to be shipped overseas haven't even been ordered yet, and the news has come that something you were counting on for some important future plans has just fallen through.

Maybe you felt like you couldn't say anything right, think anything right, do anything right this week.
Maybe you felt like you were failing God, your spouse, your kiddos, your far-away family, your church family, your Sunday School kiddos, your student you're tutoring, your missionary friends, your neighbors, your supporters, and maybe even your pet {if you had one!}.

Maybe this summer wasn't supposed to look like this.
Maybe some days you even feel like your life wasn't supposed to look like this.
In your mind, life as a mama was supposed to be full of sunshiney days and blue skies, birds chirping and gracefully flitting from tree to tree. It certainly didn't include a crow building a nest in your front palm tree and dive-bombing everyone who happened to walk past that tree. Or the same crow raiding your rubbish and scattering what it couldn't eat all over the compound.

All the little ones were going to sleep in each morning, and you'd wake up slowly as the sun shone through the window. You'd be able to spend lots of time in prayer and the Word, and no one would be screaming for bananas at 5:05 a.m.

No one would decide it would be fun to get out every single cookie cutter mama owns and spread them over the entire kitchen floor. No one would cut out paper dolls and leave all those tiny scraps of paper covering most of the table and floor in the library.

No growing girls would get offended and upset. No one would fight or argue. No one would have to be told for the 43rd time this week that God gave us hands to love and serve, not to smack our sisters with. No one would have to be pulled out of the potato basket and told to put the potatoes back in said basket again and again and again.

But maybe that idea of what motherhood and the life you were called to live wasn't exactly true?
What if your hands being full to overflowing is exactly how God wants your life to be right now?
What if He gave you this beautiful, overwhelming, intimidating, impossible thing called being a mama on purpose......not to destroy you but to make you?

What if He knows that full hands and full days can give you a full life, a life pouring over with the best things? What if the truth is that the days you feel like your cup is dry and your batteries are drained are the days that He just wants to fill you up with Himself?
What if all these hard days packed to the brim with busyness and mundane tasks and repeating and redoing and recleaning and reorganizing are really days that you can be repenting and relearning and refilling with Him?

Hey mama, what if He simply wants you to know that He loves you right where you are, and that the only step you have to take when you're tired, weary, and worn is into His waiting arms? He's waiting to quench your thirsty soul.

*So life can be too much and the days can feel like years, and yet it seems like there is never enough time to fill your own cup when you're a busy mama spilling out your life for those in your care. Over the next few weeks, I and some guests are going to be pouring out inspiring and practical ways to fill your cup when your hands are full, and sharing some excellent resources that will hopefully be a blessing to you, too.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

These Days....

My brain feels absolutely packed with about a million things so I thought it would be better to just show you a peek into my recent days....

We've been playing games, lots of games, including Monopoly Jr., which Lili has just learned to play {with a bit of help} and is slaughtering everybody....

Observing lots of God's World around us, including this enormous dung beetle! The girls watched him for quite a long time....

Cooking in the outdoor kitchen....this is some lovely "pickles" made by later be disposed by me after they rot......

Big girls learning Stratego....lots of fun, this one!

Continuing on our annual summer cleaning time, which has gotten a bit slowed down, but is close to being done. Includes all kinds of repairs, like repairing curtains that are getting a bit old,...

painting the school room {and touching up things here and there} the color I've actually wanted it to be all along,......

totally redoing the schoolroom, which we now are calling the library, because I've always wanted to live in a house with its very own library. That reveal will be soon!

And being totally swamped with our upcoming Love and Marriage Conference at our church.
John has been working almost round the clock for the last two months trying to get the five booklets he's writing done on time. Here's a sneak peek at one of the book covers:

If you think of it, would you please be in prayer for us from now through August 14th and 15th?
We will be having an evening session on the 14th for all engaged and married couples from our church and some other nearby churches. It will be a special time in our home with many young believers who've never been taught anything about love or marriage.
On the 15th, we'll have a full day of special studies at our church for all age groups.
A ton of work and preparation goes into something like this, and the next few weeks will be packed full.
On top of all that's going on with the conference, I have to get all my school planning and ordering done for the upcoming school year very soon.
I'm also really excited about a blog series I'm planning for the month of August. I'm going to be writing about the conflict we mamas can feel at times between all we've been given to do and spending time with God in His Word. It's something the Lord has really been working on my heart about since baby #4 came along. I'm lining up a number of guest posts and sharing some tools that will hopefully be a blessing to many of you!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Welcome To Our Nest: The Bathroom & Laundry Room

This post has been a long time in coming, and it's not extremely exciting, but it is the last room{s} yet to be shown.
We are blessed to have a little space for a laundry area in our home.
As the majority of people here wash their clothes by hand and usually outside near the clothesline, it is not common to find a laundry area in most houses here.
If there is a space that might work, it's usually not near a water source.
We were blessed with both space and a bathroom right on the other side of the wall.

Most washing machines here are quite tiny by American standards, but they still do the job!
Over the years I've done lots of clothes washing by hand {and still get to when the water and the electricity won't cooperate and the mountain gets too high!}, so I'm extremely grateful for this machine that will do it for me.

I've hung good "mama-reminders" here ~ as I speed through my day, they are in a great spot to be read while doing the tasks of sorting, filling, and emptying that go with all that laundry!
{I just use leftovers from my yearly calendars and free printables from Ann's Library.}

This bathroom is the main one for our house and the one our girls use.
As it has no storage and no place to put any, we've gotten creative.
We pick up hanging storage when we are on furlough.
It fits washcloths, hand towels, toothbrushes and paste, and bath toys.

We bought these frames years ago when we visited Ron Jon's Surf Shop, so we thought we'd do a surfing theme in the girls' bathroom.

You can see how this space connects to our hall {to the right}, and to the master bedroom {straight ahead}.

Opposite the master bedroom door is the girls' bedroom door.
We recently switched out the ugly metal cabinet for the pretty one that had been in the school room.
It's filled with my herbs, medicines, first aid supplies, towels, and cleaning things.

Their door with the newly redone picture frame.

And our current shower curtain, because how long do plastic shower curtains last in a house with a bunch of kids?
In my house.....not very long!

After almost two years, the tour is complete!
I guess that means that it'll be time to show all the things we've changed up, redone, and refreshed soon........

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Extraordinary Ordinary

It was my birthday Friday, but that's not why I write these words or share these pictures.
I share these moments, because some days I just need to be reminded of the extraordinary in my ordinary.

A park.....

A park is really an ordinary thing, unless you don't have one.
We've lived in Ghana almost 12 years.
This is the very first park of it's kind in the entire COUNTRY.

My children were thrilled to go play at this park for a few hours.
The last time my two oldest played at a park was over 3 years ago on furlough.
My youngest two have never played at a park.

This park had grass!
Though we live in a tropical country and our city is surrounded by jungle, grass that can be played on is almost non-existent.
We have a very small patch outside the front wall of our home, and children come in droves to play on it, because it is the only patch of grass in our entire community.

This park has a hill!
My girls were so excited to have a little grass-covered hill they could roll down.
What a treat to have such a simple thing to enjoy.

In our house the one being celebrated gets to pick the meal and the cake.
{My sweet girls were in charge of decorating.}
Since it was my birthday I picked some new dishes I'd been wanting to try.
I chose a Middle-Eastern feast including lamb burgers, Israeli couscous salad, and roasted vegetables with mint-labneh sauce. {If you are feeling adventurous, do try a recipe or two. They were delicious!}
That may sound exotic or expensive, but we are blessed to have a large Lebanese population here in our city that make all these foods easily available.
My extraordinary ordinary!

Chocolate chocolate chocolate cake.
I live in a place where I have had no choice but to learn to bake all our cakes from scratch.
Tackling a cake like this is no longer intimidating, it's fun!
The extraordinary in my ordinary.

The best part of my day, though, was these 5 people.
They are my favorites.
I get to live every day with the best, most handsome, amazing, adoring husband and these four beautiful, sparkly, giggly, brilliant girlies.

I get to live in a place that has ripped me wide open and asked me to live a life that takes faith, where a park is abnormal and lamb burgers are normal, where making a cake from scratch is much cheaper than dumping one out of a box, where soft, squishy grass is an oddity and concrete is the norm, where I have to constantly ask God to make me brave enough to speak another language than the one of my heart and think another culture than the one of my birth, where I still sweat on the coldest days, and can never straighten my hair because of the humidity, where we don't get to see grandparents and aunts and uncles regularly except on a computer screen, but where God has given me another family, where I get to do the greatest work anyone could be allowed to do ~ sharing Jesus and seeing lives transformed for His glory.
That's my extraordinary ordinary, and I'm overwhelmed by the beauty of it.

*I'm curious......what's extraordinary about the ordinary place God has called you to live?
Please do share!