The cutest child in the world.

Before I had a kid, I wondered, "Do all mothers think their kids are the cutest?"

Does motherhood give you some kind of blind eye, I wondered, to all the other kids in the world? Does your child's laugh sound the sweetest? Eyes shine the brightest? Poop smell the best? Actually, I recently heard on NPR that yes, mothers do prefer the smell of their own child's poop to another.

God bless the researcher who wanted to find the answer to THAT question.

And the mothers who participated in the trial.


I still don't know the answer to that question because I adopted the- objectively -most adorable little boy in the world. No mom goggles over here. You should see the circles he drew on the wall upstairs by my bedroom door! Amazing. Have not attempted to scrub or paint over them for three months because they are just.that.good and it has nothing to do with laziness.

Tonight I bless you with a peak into the world of some adorable things my son does. (PS: If you like my facebook page you will get updated about these happenings in REAL TIME. Just so you know.)

1. When I give him the "thumbs up" sign, he gives me the middle finger back. I haven't told him that he's holding up the wrong one.

2. Yesterday we took him for his first ever boat ride on a friend's paddle boat and he exclaimed, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" for the first five minutes because that's the most exciting phrase he knows.

3. If I take him into a public bathroom stall with me so I can pee, he announces to the rest of the bathroom go-ers, the quantity of my pee. Sometimes I get a "BIG PEE MAMA! GOOD JOB!" Other times, "Oh. Widdle pee? No more?" Nope. All done. Often, we hear chuckles from neighboring stalls.

4. Speaking of public bathrooms, a while back we took a road trip to Nashville for the Orphan Summit and stopped at a Subway for dinner on the way home. There was a puddle of water in that restroom, around the drain on the floor. While I was washing my hands, Arie licked it. Full on drank the bathroom floor water. There is not really much to say about that except: he's still alive. Puke.

5. Back to cute things. He's confused the phrase "so much" with "too much," which leads him to tell me, "Love you too much, Mama!" Never, baby boy.

6. Less cute but more hilarious: he dropped the f-bomb a while back. Our across the street neighbors- unfortunately- use the word quite loudly and frequently. He actually thinks they are saying, "fox" which sounds both in his ears and on his lips like well... you know. The other day something fell over in our entry way and he exclaimed, "OH FOX!"  We don't talk about foxes in our house anymore. It's very confusing.

7. Finally and most importantly, the reality of our family is sinking in deeper and deeper into this little heart. I tell him every day, "Mama, Papa, and Arie are a family forever and ever!" He always smiled at this, but just last week when I was kissing his little face and exclaimed, "Oh I could kiss you forever!", his face lit up and he said, "Mama, Papa, Awie- f'effer and 'effer!" And ever. Amen.

Happy Friday.



Parenting away from complaining and toward contentedness (guest post)

When John and I were in the midst of trying and not succeeding to get pregnant, I entered the new, previously hidden world of infertility. When we started our adoption we took a break from that painful world; I felt like I was breathing easily for the first time in over a year. Now, we’re back into it. Back into questions, the hope, the disappointment, and back into all those unknowns about the future of our family. We are so happy and blessed to be a family of three, but the question looms: now what?

As with many trials in life, there are some things you just can’t understand unless you’ve been there, but there is one reality I want to share because it was extremely hard to cope with during that time and is again becoming very difficult. It’s something I’ve heard again and again from other women who struggle with infertility: it’s the pain of a complaining parent.

I know parenting is hard. I am not against sharing battle stories or needing encouragement on those bad days. I’m not even against using a little humor to cope with the strange and annoying things kids do. But there’s a line. When I hear parents sharply complaining about their kids and gracelessly wishing for a different reality, it feels like being stabbed in the heart and slapped in the face. It’s so painful. You have something I am dying to have and you are wishing it away.

I’m sure that even in the 7 months since Arie’s been home, I’ve slipped up and said something insensitive about parenting. I do try, though, to focus on the positives and let them define my parenting journey instead of the negatives. Even with just one child- one who is a very happy and easy going little guy- it is easy to get down about the difficulties. In the hard times (late night diaper overflows and bed changes), the frustrating times (he just threw his cheese in my face), and the exasperating times (he drew on the table with permanent marker. Again.), I have to remind myself of what it was like to be childless and longing.

All this has inspired me to share one of my dear friends with you. My friend Steph is a mother to four beautiful children. She has not struggled with infertility herself and yet she has somehow understood what precious gifts her children are. In the years since her motherhood began, I have heard Steph talk honestly about her challenges but I have truly never once heard her complain about her children. I marvel at this! I have asked her to share some of her wisdom with you today and I hope you come away as encouraged as I have!


Steph, thank you so much for taking this time (in the midst of your busy life!) to share with us today. Will you introduce yourself and your family?

Yes! My name is Steph. I just turned 27 last month, the day after delivering my fourth baby. My best friend and husband, Mike, has been riding this crazy roller coaster of our life with me for the past 6.5 years. We've been married for 5.5 of them. We have a 4 year old daughter, an almost 3 year old daughter, an almost 18 month old (extremely busy) son, and a 3 week old daughter.

**deep breath** Yes. Here's the quick math for you: we met and then dated for 7 months; we were engaged for 4.5 months, married, and got pregnant 7 months later. That's been our trend ever since! Every 7 months, I got pregnant.

Mike works long hours, 6-7 days a week with his parents, owning a wholesale nursery and retail garden centre. I spend a lot of time alone with 4 small children. A lot.
Wedding day in December 2007

What made you desire a bigger family?

We always wanted four children. We each come from families of four children. I would love six or eight, actually. I just want my kids to have each other. When Mike and I pass, all they will have left of us is each other.
Our family, taken this spring. 
My mother is one of nine children, and I always enjoyed having so many people in our family. Family gatherings are huge, loud, and full of laughter. Although my grandmother was blessed to have nine children, my mother struggled after two. There is a crazy 13 year gap between me and my younger sister. My mother struggled with 'secondary infertility' for eight long, painful years. I believe this played a huge part in my outlook today. I grew up with the fear of not being able to conceive, or that it might take a long time if I did. Then, of course, the fears of miscarriage. My mom had a few of those.

We all know that raising young children is hard, tiresome, and often monotonous work. Do you get tired? Bored? Sick of it? How do you cope?

Yes, I have to admit. I have had a few scary thoughts come across my mind, in the midst of the long, monotonous, stressful days. I’ve thought, “I don't want to do this anymore.” And to me, this is a huge red flag. When something like that creeps into my head, I shock myself. I wonder, “If I truly followed that train of thought, where would it lead me?”

I'll tell you because I did follow that train of thought, just to see where it would go; just to see what other answers are out there for my "problem." Well, I could send them all away to daycare (to be clear: I'm not bashing daycare; just stay with me). Daycare is a fun and educational place for kids! But what would my heart be behind sending them?  Mike and I are not in a position where we have to send them to daycare. We decided together that this is what we wanted for our family: that I would stay at home and raise the kids. If I chose daycare, the truth is that I would be sending them so I don't have to deal with them. What a terrible, horrible reason. Everything is a matter of the heart. And sometimes, I need to give my head a shake and regroup. Because mothering requires all of your heart, and sometimes that can be utterly exhausting, not to mention painful.

So, now what?

First and foremost, I repent. God has blessed me with babies…abundantly! How dare I complain about it! I wanted these babies. I prayed for these babies. I asked God for these babies, and I received them. God is good. Psalm 127:3-5 says, " Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate."NKJV emphasis mine.
Our newest blessing. 
A reward, that verse says. Other versions say "children are a blessing from the Lord." God is giving me His blessings. I better rethink my attitude.
Using my clean laundry and laundry bins as "baby beds." I guess I can't get mad at that cuteness! 
Matthew 18:10 says "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven." Whoa. Am I despising my children? They sure know how to make my blood boil. If I hear that high pitched screaming one.more.time…. heart check. My children are human; they sin too. Unfortunately, it often feels like they are sinning against me. It's hard not to take that personally.

What spiritual practices have you found helpful?

First, prayer. Then there are some parenting difficulties that don't pertain to my children sinning. For example: nighttime parenting. Everything is ten times harder in the middle of the night, when you just want to sleep. The only thing to do is pray. You're awake, and you have to sit there rocking them back to sleep for the next 10 or more minutes anyway. Pray over their life. Pray for their salvation. Pray for their future spouse and their future spouse's salvation. Pray for their health, their safety. Pray for their ability to hear God's voice and direction. By the time you get through all of this, they may be asleep. If not, start over but pray for their siblings. Pray for your spouse. Pray for yourself. By this point, the sun should be coming up soon! *winks*

Prayer is often under utilized. It's good to get into the habit of an ongoing prayer. Be in constant conversation with God. Instead of thinking to myself, I 'think to God' so-to-speak. I rarely have the opportunity to sit in a quiet moment and bow my head and 'formally pray'. I pray with the kids before we eat, when they get hurt, and before they go to sleep. Nothing refocuses me like prayer. One example: my daughter was recently driving me bananas right before bed. She called to me, again, so I went back into her room with a sharp, "What?!"

"Mommy, can you pray for me?"


My heart dropped. The juxtaposition of my previous attitude and the one I needed to attain before coming before the Lord with my girls was a little painful. It's insanely hard to have to regroup so quickly. Everything about my behaviour and attitude had to turn around instantly. I was quickly humbled, and prayed over and with my girls.

Second, reading scripture. I know it's hard, running on 3 or 4 hours of sleep, to "just get up earlier and do your devotions." People who say things like that are obviously NOT running on 3 hours of sleep! Devotions should not be a guilt laden chore. Do make special time for Him and His Word, but know that it may not look like everyone else's.

Personally, using my Bible and a pen with some notecards is my favourite, along with my prayer journal. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Take advantage of technology, and use an app, website, or email devotions. It may take some extra consideration as to when is a good time to spend some serious time in the Word. I'll admit, I tend to just try to get a few quick dishes done, or a load of laundry in during nap time, and then I will get to my devotions.

Of course, my desire to multitask often gets in the way. Or- can we be totally honest here?- social media and the internet. Those are hard for me sometimes. As a stay-at-home mom, we are often shut-ins with our kids. Sure, we take them places, but it can be so busy that we don't get enough adult conversation. Social media is such a blessing in that way that we can have engaging conversation, sometimes healthy (sometimes unhealthy) debates even. That is so good for our brains. However, it is so easily accessible that sometimes it can get in the way. My biggest struggle is the vast information I can access on the internet. I am an information junkie. I love to learn. I want answers to all my questions, so I look them up, carefully searching for credible articles. Sometimes I'm searching for opinions, and check in on some blogs. The access is endless.

So, I try to set my priorities. Sometimes we have more time than we think we do. Personally, I find before bed is best for me because I won't be interrupted. I don't have to cut it short, or watch the clock because someone will wake up soon. That is the season of life I am in right now. One day my kids will be old enough to get their own drinks, or take themselves to the bathroom, and then I can take as long as I need to with my devotions. Until then, I will adapt.

What practical advice do you have for other parents?

I like the idea of morning devotions because it just gets me started on the right foot in the morning. I really only have the opportunity to whisper some prayers as I go about my busy morning. It's so important to have a good attitude, and truthfully, I am the only one responsible for that. I have to set myself up for it. Part of that is taking care of myself before I get burnt out. When I get those scary thoughts creeping into my head, that's a huge red flag that I have not been maintaining myself.

Alone time. I am a very independent person. That can be a virtue and a vice. I am called to be surrounded by dependent little people, so I can feel overwhelmed and annoyed. I just need time alone. My husband knows this about me, and is learning to recognize that need before things get out of control. It's so important that your spouse understands your 'maintenance needs', because sometimes you don't know you need it until you're ready to run away. For others it may be time with your spouse, or friends, or hobby.

I also find, that when I eat well, my mood is better and I have more energy. I always need lots of energy!

Life-giving influences. Another way to help preserve and maintain a good attitude is to surround yourself with life-giving influences. My social media feeds are filled with people, blogs (like this one), or groups (this one and this one) that post encouraging words to moms, scripture, information on living a healthy lifestyle, or humor.

I have a few go-to books that encourage me as a mom (“Loving the Little Years” is a favourite!) . I know which songs will uplift me. I write out, or print, quotes to remind myself of this joy I'm seeking and trying to maintain, or just some words of encouragement on being a mother or wife. Sometimes, in extreme cases, I gather the kids around the computer and we watch funny baby or cat videos. Lame, I know, but it works. Gives us a little break from reality to regroup and try again.

Laughter is crucial. I believe that's one of the reasons God paired me with my husband. He makes me laugh every day. Often I just have to step back and laugh at the whole situation my kids have me in. Sometimes it's just so incredibly ridiculous, it just feels like it can't actually be real. God has cast me in some kind of sitcom, and for sure He is enjoying this entertainment.
Having a hard day, texting with Mike and playing off Jim Gaffigan's joke that having kids around is like living with drunk people! :-)

This, too, shall pass. It's only a season.

How do you keep yourself from complaining about your children? How do you stay so positive?

Perspective. I count my blessings. I know too many people who have lost children, to whatever reason.
Buckling four kids into car seats is time consuming and sometimes a battle, but I will not complain because right now they are under my care and I know they are safe. There will come a day when they are driving in cars with friends, and I won't have control over their safety.
That's a lot of buckles! 
If I am up in the night with my child, I whisper a prayer of thanks that I am at home with them and not in a hospital room. I am thankful they are up for the mere reason of cutting new teeth, or having a bad dream or a tummy ache. Something that parents with sick children would give anything for. I have four healthy children. They will enjoy a normal childhood, outside the confines of a hospital.

How do you respond when you hear other moms complaining? How do you encourage them without commiserating?

No one likes a whiner or a complainer! Have you ever met someone that always has something negative to say? I am so thankful for the ability to filter my facebook newsfeed. I have some family and friends that I just cannot stand their status updates. I am so tired of reading how difficult their night was, or how their child won't sleep, or something else is going wrong. What is the point of that? Let's skip the virtual pity party.

I am all for supporting people, though. Especially other struggling mamas! Sometimes when I see a whiny status, I will acknowledge the difficulty and offer a solution. "I'm sorry you're not getting any sleep, that is so hard! Have you tried ______?"

The difference between a whiner and someone legitimately looking for help is usually in their response. "Yeah, I've tried everything! This kid just won't ever sleep! I'm never having kids again!" OR "Yeah, it didn't really work. But maybe I'll try _____ instead. Or maybe it's an ear infection/teething/food reaction., etc." Complaining for the sake of complaining is just annoying. If you are sharing your struggles, at least pursue a solution. And be mindful of your audience.

I have sought advice from other mamas many times. Sometimes it's not what you are saying, but how you say it. We are all in this together, so let's do it with class. Not too long ago I had a particularly difficult day and I was just feeling done. Mike had been working extra long hours, and hadn't taken a day off in over a month and a half. I was 9 months pregnant with our fourth and spent. I had no one to turn to. I had a laundry list of everything that went wrong that day, but in the end, I was determined to be thankful.

I took that no good, rotten day, and tried to at least make something beautiful from it: I shared my struggle in a status update just for the therapy of it. I needed to let someone know I was struggling and at the same time, I used it to encourage other moms who I knew could relate. Then I ended the status with encouragement. I wanted to let other moms know that I do not have it all together, and won't pretend to, but let's keep our chins up!

Motherhood is an extremely difficult calling, but it is a crazy blessed calling. Know yourself. Be prepared. Set yourself (and your kids) up for joy. "The days are long but the years are short."




Picking berries (dreams come true)

Every year in Michigan, March arrives with promises of warming temperatures, budding flowers, and a long awaited spring.

And every year we forget that in Michigan, March is still winter.

So is April.

Spring in Michigan is so much less a season of slow, cheerful warming and so much more a season of surprise snowstorm devastation. Just when we've switched our wardrobes over, pulled out our shorts, and put our pants away, we get a nasty, cold surprise. If you take a peak into the coat closet of any Michigander in April, you will find snow pants, a down filled coat, a rain coat, a spring jacket, a windbreaker, and a sweatshirt. Because you just.never.know.

But today, my friends, as the sun sets on June 20th we raise our fists together in a cheer of solidarity because we have made it. It is spring no more. We sweep the salt off our boot racks and put away our wool socks because summer has arrived at last.

Hello Michigan Summer.
Hello 80* weather.
Hello sand and swimming.
Hello flips flops and tank tops.
Hello sunscreen and sunglasses.
Hello camping and late night bonfires.

And today? Hello strawberry season. We've been waiting for your sweet and sticky, your ripe and red, your warm bites and your summery smell.

I've been waiting for you. I've been waiting for years to walk down your straw laden rows with a little hand in mine, to crouch down beside my child in breathless surprise as we push back your leaves to reveal your fruit, and to watch the wide eyed surprise on my little one's face when the realization of eating those sweet red berries settles in.

You, strawberry season, were worth the wait.

His first bite was like this:

Me: "Arie taste this berry! You can eat it!"

Arie: *looks at my skeptically. Gingerly takes the berry from my hand*

Me: Go ahead; take a bite.

Arie: *nibbles.... shakes his head no...*

Me: *takes the berry from him* "You don't like it?"

Arie: *eyes get really big* "I LIKE IT!!!" *grabs the berry back and stuffs the whole thing in his mouth*

I guess the taste buds took a second to register the goodness, but after that it was eat.eat.eat.

Actually it was eat.eat.eat for a few minutes until Arie saw my friend Keith and I throwing stems and rotten berries back into the bushes. Then I guess Arie thought he was doing it wrong, so he began a process of picking, taking one bite, and then chucking the berry back into the bush.

We gave up on explaining his error after about three tries.

There are now three dozen half eaten berries in that field. I hope the other pickers aren't confused.

After picking we spend a few minutes checking out the tractor and then paid for our pickings.

 Arie begged us for "more berries!!" the whole way home.

I dreamed about this day for so long. Motherhood is hard in a lot of ways, you guys, but can I tell you something else? It's also filled with dreams come true.

Thanking God for an hour of hope, fulfilled with my precious little boy.



Telling stories

"Great stories happen to those who can tell them." 

My cousin Robyn made this remark to me at my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary party this weekend, an event at which lots and lots of stories were told. I wanted to attribute the quote to her but she laughed and said that no, she did not come up with it; she had heard someone else say it a while before.
Robyn and Arie, playing farm. 

A quick google search revealed the source of this quote is actually Ira Glass, who many know as the producer and host of the radio program This American Life. 

Ira Glass, you said it. Spot on.

I was born into a family of story-tellers, particularly on my father's side. His parents and their children can tell stories that will cause your whole body to lean forward with rapt attention and they have tales that will leave you breathlessly slapping your knees and throwing your head back with laughter.

Great aunts with my beautiful, joyful grandma! (second from the left)
Aunts, ruining the moment. Or perfecting it, depending on who you ask ;-)
My grandparents tell the best stories because they have so much material to work with. They lived through WWII in the Netherlands. My grandma remembers how one of her grammar school classmates celebrated his birthday during the war by handing our pinky fingernail sized caramels to the class, a treat his mother had probably made from a precious can of condensed milk. We were so lucky, she says, we didn't have a lot but we never had to eat tulip bulbs like some of our friends. That's hunger.

My grandpa, who was a teenager during the war, remembers hiding in a barn, way up in the rafters, as the Nazis came searching- for what I'm not sure- throwing pitchforks through the hay. They didn't find him, thank God.

After the war they both immigrated to Canada. My grandpa flew across the Atlantic on one of the very first passenger planes to make the flight. It was very loud, he says, and cold.

They met- Ralph and Jacoba- at a church function for young adults in Southern Ontario and when they were eventually married they moved into a house without electricity or plumbing. They raised eight children together, all in cloth diapers with a hand crank washing "machine" and a clothesline. My grandpa worked at first as a bread delivery man and then as a butcher in his own shop.
Grandpa and Grandma, married 60 years and still smiling! 
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stories from their sixty years together. When I was a girl, one of my favorite things to do was wash dishes with my grandma and hear her stories about coming to Canada and learning English, about raising eight little ones in an old farmhouse with three bedrooms and one bathtub between them, about the fun they had in spite of it all- camping in the summer, ice-skating in the winters, and about the kids getting into trouble with various animals on the farm. My dad has a particularly good one about a time they tried to make a billy goat swim.
My dad's side of the family. Most of them, anyway. 

I hear these stories with amazement. My friends and I- we get overwhelmed because we have to fold all the laundry we pull from the dyer and when our one or two kids won't stay in bed. I don't think I have enough neurons in my brain to imagine eight kids and doing all the wash by hand, let alone gardening, farming, running a business, and preparing three meals a day from scratch, when even your scratch is pretty measly to begin with.

They'll be the first to admit they didn't do life perfectly (we can all relate), but when I hear their stories I am always inspired by how hard and humbly they worked to give their children a better future. My grandma made me smile on Saturday when one of my uncles told her that (because Canada is a commonwealth country) couples who celebrate 60 years of marriage- called a 'Diamond Jubilee' a are able to receive a personal congratulatory letter from the Queen. My uncle was asking my grandma for her wedding certificate so he could apply for the letter, knowing my grandma's affinity for the monarch, and she replied true to form:

"Oh don't bother the Queen with that. She has a husband in the hospital and a grandchild on the way. She is too busy for that."

My grandma doesn't want to bother the Queen. That's who she is.
Listening to her children and grandchildren give speeches and toasts. 

Stories tell us who people are and how they do life. They bring us joy and they serve as cautionary tales. Mostly, they inspire- don't they? They encourage us with a sense of if she could do that then I can do this. Stories are interpretations of history, a way to remind us of meaning and purpose in life.

There's not too much in life that I love more than a good story. What are some of your family's favorite stories?



Changes coming to the Burden house

Today I'm taking a break from my regular adoption and family life posts to share some personal/professional news from the Burden house. 

A few posts ago I alluded to some big decisions that John and I were making. The decisions have been made and I'm finally able to share them.

My husband is a pastor and was recently approached by two churches, asking him to consider interviewing for the pastor positions they had open. In our denomination, pastors are not assigned to churches; the job search process looks more like dating where parties both woo and scrutinize each other to see if they would be a good fit. On the churches' end, the scrutinizing is typically done by both a "search team" and the leadership of the church (staff and elders). When the the search team and leaders think they have found a good candidate, the person is presented to the church and all members have the opportunity to vote "yes" or "no" to offer the job to the candidate. Offering the job is called "extending a call" or- shorter- "calling."

Over the last several months John has been interviewing at these two churches- one locally (we would not need to move) and one out of state, flying distance- not driving (big move).

The process was both exciting and excruciating. We love our current church, but John's desire has always been to preach full time and be the spiritual leader of a congregation. At our current church he is an associate pastor, preaching half-time. When we took the call to our current church, the elders viewed it as an opportunity to invest in a young pastor and have him be mentored by their very talented and experienced senior pastor. We viewed it the same way; we thought it was b a 3-5 year call and three years later it seemed like we had reached the intended purpose: John (and I) has learned so much from the lead pastor at our church, from the church itself, and we felt ready and equipped to move forward to our next calling.

Still, it was hard to imagine leaving. John preached his first ever sermon at this church when he was still a student, six years ago. This church has always loved and respected us, even when we've made newbie mistakes. They have knelt down in service to us time and time again when really, we should have been the ones on our knees. Perhaps most importantly: they are the church that brought our son home. They prayed, encouraged, donated, ate our pancakes, bought my fundraising necklaces, and finally welcomed us home when we arrived as a new, exhausted family of three. We took Arie to his first ever service at this church, celebrated our first Christmas together in its sanctuary, and renewed his baptism with its congregation. When we thought about saying goodbye, our hearts ached.
John being ordained at our church, Summer 2010.
Serving pancakes at our fundraiser, in the church to church people! February 2012. 
Arie's baptism renewal. February 2013.
We stayed up late for many nights, talking, praying, thinking about making this change and in the end determined that it was time. We remembered one of our college professors telling us that in ministry you have to learn to say the word goodbye. And we remembered another seminary professor saying that you always want to leave while your congregation still wants you there because if they want you to go, you've stayed too long.

Once we determined that it was time to leave our church, we were left deciding between the other two. John's interviews and visits had gone very well and it looked like he would have two calls to consider. As incredible as it was to have two churches who wanted him to be their pastor, it was... confusing. Again we stayed up night after night, trying to determine where God was leading us. We did a lot of hard emotional and spiritual work to get to a place where neither the idea of staying in our house and community nor the idea of moving to a new house and community were driving factors. In the end we had to answer only one question:

Where could we make the biggest impact in God's kingdom? 

We both felt like our hearts were torn because our current city is a very "churched" one. In some neighborhoods there are almost churches on every corner. We struggled with the idea of staying here, wondering if there weren't already enough churches and preachers to accomplish God's work here. But we also struggled with the idea of leaving because we knew the local church was  healthy, poised and ready to answer God's call in a big way, whereas the out of state church was struggling with identity issues both big and small. While we felt the city might need more pastors and churches to share God's love, we wondered if we would feel frustrated and impatient (weaknesses with which both John and I struggle) there.

It took a long time for us to work our way through these questions but in the end our decision was made this way: we remembered that God uses us to impact his kingdom through the gifts he has given us and so we asked ourselves where our gifts- primary John's, but mine as well- would be best put to use. 

The answer was: at the local church.

All along the process I felt very content to let John make the ultimate decision and when he finally made it I honestly felt more tired than anything else. The process was so long and our future so uncertain, that when he told me which church he was choosing I just thought, "Okay. Phew."

Now we are getting excited. John has three weeks left at our current church and then we start at our new one! I'm excited because this new church already feels like home. It is a place where I want to invite my friends. It's a place that feels very easy, like a conversation with your best friend. It also feels like a challenge. The church's "motto" of sorts is that they are a place for people who have given up on church but not on God. It's somewhat funny to me that we are being called to this church because neither of us have given up on church. We actually like church a lot. And not just the community, but the ritual and the religious practices. We find great meaning and significance in them. It is going to be a very good and holy practice for us to figure out what it means to minister at a church for people who don't like church. We are both filled with prayerful anticipation for the new journey.

John's transition to this new job has also allowed me to make some changes. When he starts in July, I will be able to close my daycare in order to stay at home with Arie and focus more on this blog and my writing. When I started blogging it was a way to help with our fundraising and I thought it would be a story that brought glory to God. In my heart I also hoped it would become something lasting and thanks to you my faithful readers, it has. I joke with John that I know I'm small beans in the blogging world but I'm just so happy that I'M BEANS! I love writing and the fact that our story has meant something to other people- most of whom don't even know us- thrills me. Reading your comments is always a joy. I don't know what the future holds but I do know that God is calling me to keep writing and I'm very excited to see where that leads.

I'm also very excited to go grocery shopping in the middle of the morning! When the stores are quiet! And not at the end of a long day! Yes and amen to that too, no?

We have a lot of changes coming this summer, but for the first time in my life I'm not anxious about them at all. God has seen us through constant change over our five years of marriage and he has never failed us. Our changes are all good ones and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for them.  I'm sure we will wipe away more than a few tears over the next month as we say our many goodbyes, but we will be crying them only because we have been so blessed. I'd rather be crying while I say goodbye to something good than dry-eyed with indifference as my companion.

Feeling thankful, excited, and blessed.

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