Pictures

Last week I got a new camera for my birthday. Last week the cherry trees bloomed.  So, last week I took 300 pictures- literally.  In between pushing buttons on my new, shiny, blue, WATERPROOF (how perfect is that for our family,) camera I was so drop-dead tired that I once had to call Kenny at work because I couldn’t remember which cupboard held mugs for the coffee I took thirty minutes to find in the pantry.  I am experiencing a kind of mental EXHAUSTION (yes, it must be written in all caps,) that I think only stay-at-home moms can understand.  The rest of the world has enough perspective that they can’t see how not-yet-fully-developed humans can become mind control masters telepathically siphoning off all sanity and rational thought turning their mothers into emotional puppets and intellectual zombies.  I think this confusing clutter of metaphors clearly illustrates my point.  If I was judging on my own scale I would write this week off- happily allow everyone to forget it- but I’m not the judge, or the boss, or even the main character in this show, and out of the whirlwind that keps me off balance and disoriented God always plants a few clear, beautiful memories.  I’m glad that this life isn’t about what I make it.  It’s so much nicer to just follow the Tour Guide.

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Kenny knew how much I hated missing the cherry blossoms last year.  Here in Korea the blossoming of the cherry trees is an annual event celebrated with nation-wide picnics and festivals, but it only lasts a few days before the wind blows the petals off in blizzards.  When the wind starting blowing while I was still consumed with work and the trees were surrendering to green before I ever got a picture I thought I was going to have to give up my wish.  I tried not to pout, but Kenny knew it was important to me, and he had been watching the petals since the first day they opened.  So, one day on our ride home he pulled off to the side of the road and told me to get out of the car.  He pointed down the street and it was still lined with the snow white blossoms on both sides 15 feet high. “Take as many pictures as you want.  The kids and I will meet you at the end of the street.  I may even send a girl out to join you.”  I walked, ran, walked backwards, laid on the petal strewn grown and generally looked ridiculous to all passing traffic but it felt so good to be doing something just for fun, not because it had to be done.  I felt free and it made me wish I could share that part of me more. 

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The presence of barbed wire everywhere amongst the young and growing things seems like such an irresistible visual irony.

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I’m so thankful for the presence of God’s glory, no matter how I feel, or how well I’m functioning.  I hope where ever you are or however your week is going this passion week is filled with snapshots of God’s greatness, glory and grace!

 

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Gift

I have been given such a huge gift in my husband.  When many men want to pursue their own hobbies or recharge away from their families, Kenny wants me and the kids to be with him.  He brings us along on company functions.  He spends his Saturdays at home.  He actually wants to spend time with us, even though I often feel like we just surround him with drama and strife.  He’s quite a man, my husband and I hope I am learning to appreciate him.  Instead of asking, “Will there be other families there,” or trying to be sure every aspect of an event is “kid-friendly,” I am learning to just go along because the details don’t matter next to the fact that he wants us there, and while we are there, I’m learning to lighten up on managing the kids- follow Kenny’s lead instead of micromanaging, because perfect kid behavior doesn’t matter next to the fact that Dad wants them there.  I could be an awesome mom, train my kids perfectly, manage their world seamlessly, cover it all- and in doing so, leave no room for their Dad’s delight.  I know it isn’t a very popular stance.  Most moms spend more time with their kids, understand them better, have read more parenting books than dad, etc, etc, but I still believe that when it comes down to it, I’m just support staff- Kenny is the boss.  He’s the one who provides our kids with a picture of their Heavonly Father.  He may not ever realise just what a gift it is that he wants our kids, but I do.  I can see how a Dad who shares his life with his kids, opens their hearts to Someone Else who wants to share His life with them, and for that I thank God EVERY SINGLE DAY for my husband.

Kenny brought the kids and I along with his company on a tour of the National Museum of Korea.

Kenny brought the kids and I along with his company on a tour of the National Museum of Korea.

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He also brought us on a company hike and barbeque.  (Where we all walked backwards up the mountain like Koreans.)

He also brought us on a company hike and barbeque. (Where we all walked backwards up the mountain like Koreans.)

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Felt like spring back in the states when the boys found a mess of frog eggs.

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Dallas drinks straight from the mountain spring.

Adventure

Adventure was my biggest concern that Saturday.  I had read in a book by the Duggars how they surprise their children with adventures- just tell them “We’re going somewhere fun,” then stick them in the van and make a memory!  So, one Saturday, I wanted to give my kids an adventure.  “Kids,” I called, “Go put on warm clothes over those bathing suits!”  (They were decked out with bathing suits and squirt guns facing off behind pool toys barricades on our glassed-in balcony.  This is what country kids do when you stick them in the city.)  “Pajama pants are fine.  Just put something warm on over your bathing suits, grab shoes and coats and wait at the door!”

Saturday in Korea is Friday in the states.  Two days before we were rushing about (or wandering aimlessly having forgotten Mom’s instructions,) for our adventure, another family far away in our home town was doing the same thing.  As I pointed my camera to record my kid’s hodge-podge of flannel pants, cardigans and cowboy boots, a far away acquaintance, a sister who studied the Bible beside me while both our kids were babies, steadied her camera to frame her little girl sitting up in a hospital bed opening gifts brought by family who needed to say “I love you” before their adventure began. The video camera records as the little girl, with her name in purple on her crown, quotes Psalm 23 to the doll on the pillow beside her.

In Korea I hop behind the wheel for the first time armed with my orange international driver’s license.  I lean intently over the wheel watching side to side for those deadly Korean taxis.  Wheels on the car and wheels on a hospital bed, two families roll off on our adventures.

While my kids jump into the warm water of an indoor pool, screaming and splashing over the joy of swimming in the middle of a city winter, a six year old girl named Katherine undergoes surgery to remove a golf ball sized tumor from her brain.

When we tire of swimming we sit with our feet in the hot tub, talking.  Far away they use words like ‘pain management, physical therapy, intensive care,” and the last, the loudest- “malignant.” 

We head home, sleepy in towels, thinking what great memories our adventure had made for our kids and in the states the bravest mother in the world sits by a bed side and speaks to the camera- using the same faithful voice she had used in Bible study.   She strokes her daughter’s hair and speaks with calm faith and trust, memories for her daughter and the four siblings whose hearts are with her on this adventure. 

I blogged a while ago about how our family packed up and moved in five days flat.  Six year-old Katherine went from MRI, to diagnosis, to brain surgery in three!  Adventure – it takes on a different meaning when it comes in the form of fear and pain, but this family is willing to trust God through both- to trust God for their beautiful daughter and for her brothers and her sister- to give their children a memory of God’s faithfulness.  When I read about Katherine before church on Sunday I sobbed tears I didn’t deserve to cry.  I’m not close enough to claim heart ache, but I have kids, and I claim to trust God and I can feel all the way from Korea how those two things can conflict enough to tear a heart apart, so I ask you, my reader, please- please! – follow the links to read this family’s story!  They are hanging their hearts, their subsistence, their children’s future memories, on their faith in God.  Please visit http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/karing-for-katheryn-brezina/147203 to read what has happen to Katheryn in the past ten days and find a way that you can be a part of God’s glory as it shines in this situation. 

Villa Mansion

I was sorely tempted to wait until the house was clean, or at least unpacked before I posted pictures of our new apartment, but I think you can see just how much God has blessed us, despite the clutter!  So welcome to Villa Mansion!

Elliana carves our left over boxes in the entryway.

Elliana is carving our extra boxes in our entryway.  To the left are the closets with nice little shelves for our shoes.

Elliana loves to use her room to climb out onto the laundry porch and then knock on the kitchen door pretending to be a neighbor.

Elliana’s room has one closet for each of our four younger kids.  The kids keep all their clothes, toys and books here.  Having their stuff outside of their room is really helping the boys keep their mess under control and be more responsible with their laundry.

So this winter we spent a lot of time stuck in the apartment- enough time for David to literally jump his bed into pieces, so, he's sleeping on the floor untill we can get to the wood shop.

 

Dallas and David’s room looks out over the river.

 

Our livingroom

Our living room also looks out over the Han.  The porch serves as a place for the boys to sit and whittle and for Elliana to care for her Daisy garden.

Dining room

The dining room is also our school room.  We can see Seoul Tower out the window.

Our kitchen has two walk in pantries- one for food and kitchen apliances and another for my teaching/art/sewing stuff.

Our kitchen is so big- we literally have empty cabinets!

The laundry porch

The laundry porch has this awesome drying rack that the kids love to raise and lower.

 

Our room- open the Korean glass doors to look out onto the han while you stand under the flower shaped chandelierOh my room- I have already spent so much time resting here, looking out on the Han, and thanking God for our place of peace.

Cody's room- yeah he's a teenager. My room looked like this ten years ago too.  Cody’s room is back from the rest of the room giving him a little peace and privacy from his younger siblings.

The view out our window.

Our windows look out on Hangang park and the Han river.

We have to walk down a block to the nearest highway crossing, but essentially this is our backyard.

So, we spend most of our time here.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I am boasting in our new house.  I keep telling Kenny “Thank you for this awesome apartment!” and he keeps saying “It wasn’t me!”  Everyone who reads the paperwork on our apartment, from realtors to the army guys who process our housing requests, can’t believe the low rent we are paying for all this square footage, in fact, and when we moved in the owner knocked another 500,000 Won-  equal to $500- off the rent because we didn’t want cable.  Add all that up and it is pretty unavoidable that this apartment is another in a long line of God’s gifts to us!  So who wants to come visit?

Be Still and Know

The day before our third Valentine’s Day our family moved into our third house, putting an end to the year we lived in a military high rise community called Hannam Village.  If I had to pick one thing I have learned in my time living in Hannam Village it would be Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted in all the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.”  In everything from loneliness, to culture shock, to doing big jobs like homeschooling with six kids, God taught me to rest and trust instead of getting upset.  Perhaps the best example of how He did this is the final exam of our moving week, and yes- it was a moving week.  The entire time from finding a new apartment to moving in was a total of six days!  Here’s how it went:

Wednesday- Kenny starts the apartment search.

Thursday- We find this amazing apartment.

Friday- A housing inspector shows up at our current residence wanting to inspect it for move out and informs me we will be out within a week.  I have a minor freak out.

Monday- A man from the moving company comes to look things over and tells me he will be back Wednesday, as in the day after tomorrow, because that’s the only day they can move us.  Kenny looks at me a little warily (will she blow?)  I hesitate a minute, then shrug and laugh.

Wednesday- The movers arrive.  Kenny has to spend the day attending briefings and filing paperwork, all of part of a military move.  So, I stay with the movers- me and up to six kids.  While the movers pack we camp in a corner of the living room and the kids create an elaborate game using pieces they drew on notebook paper.  Paper, markers and scissors turn into an entire world.  The movers dash about and I- I practice being still- literally.  I sit through the entire move in a lawn chair with my feet on a back pack and my nose in a book, or a kid on my lap holding their nose in a book while I read.  It was the most I have sat still all year.  I love moving.

Thursday- We just manage a night’s sleep in the new apartment.  I’m glad I packed sleeping bags and pillows in our overnight bags because there is not a moment to open a single box.  Up early in the morning we dash back to the old apartment.  We  have to have the apartment clean and ready for inspection soon after lunch.  We get our supplies arranged, grab magic erasers, pass out assignments and dive into the work- for about thirty minutes.  Then, David is trying to look through a window that Cody just washed, but clean and David have never gone well together, and so he slips.  Face first he crashes into the edge of a heater.  What teeth he doesn’t knock loose he puts straight through his lower lip.  There is blood everywhere.  One look is enough to tell us a trip to the hospital is needed, so with only hours till deadline I leave Kenny and Cody to clean the entire apartment and I take the younger children to the hospital.  Holding David as pain and motion sickness battle it out in the back seat of the taxi  he asks me to sing him his favorite song, Silent Night.  So, I am still and sing quietly and I realize what a treat it is to hold the boy who rarely wants to be held as we ride through city traffic.  The taxi driver keeps glancing in the rear view mirror and you can imagine he must have kids himself from the sympathy in his glance toward David, either that or he just is worried we are going to get blood on his upholstery.   We spend four hours in the hospital.  We play more paper games and I read aloud.  Hospital beds can actually be quite comfortable even with four people in them.  We are all just being still.  One of David’s teeth has already fallen out and is now in the coin pouch of my wallet.  Doctors examine, rinse, poke, prod, send us across the hospital for antibiotics, then across the post to find a pediatric dentist.  She examines again, then finally says “One more x-ray, then we get the stitches done.”  We are almost done, but as David tilts his head back for his last x-ray he takes the practice of being still a little too far and actually falls asleep.  By the time they are ready for stitches David is sound asleep on the examination table.  The doctor decides to go ahead with the stitches anyways.  Half way through David wakes up and finds scissors and needles literally sticking out of his mouth and he does what any of us would do, he flips out!  Blood is everywhere again.  Any stitches put in come out and I just grab up my boy and hold him very very still.  When, at last we leave I have teeth in my purse, a brown paper bag with a bottle of antibiotics and pain killers, David looks like a boxer, and we are all exhausted, but then we are picked up by our victorious men folk. They have, all on their own, passed the move out inspection and gained the sympathy of the moving inspector through the tale of David’s plight.  So, as we head home to our new apartment it seems like a lot went wrong, but not once do I freak out (although I did almost deck a nurse who tried to take David’s temperature orally while he was still spitting teeth,) and at the end of the day all we feel is proud to have managed so well as a family.  Be still and know that God will be exalted.

Its a week later and I still have not unpacked.  In fact, we all decided to celebrate moving in by getting sick- again.  As I write a man with a jack hammer has been camped out in my skull for two days.  If he doesn’t move out by tomorrow we will go back the the hospital and have them fix my sinus infection, (and I will be careful not to fall asleep on the exam table.)  Our year in Hannam Village was sometimes very hard.  A lot happened that was physically and emotionally exhausting, yet, through it all God was teaching me to be still.  Our new apartment is amazing- every morning I feel like I’m waking up in a luxury hotel or spa.  The river runs by the windows and I think of the 23rd Psalm every day, “He leads me by still waters for His namesake.”  I hope that is what our time here will be- a time of being still- no matter what happens!

The kids and I try to stay out of the way while supervsing the movers. A picnic Lunch in one of the rooms the movers have already emptied.  The movers brought things into our new apartment using a lift which they attached to our sixth floor porch.

Depart From Evil and Do Good

For once on Sunday the house if quiet.  Elliana is playing store in the hall with our next door neighbor and the brothers are making kirigami (which Dallas informed me is what you call origami when you cut the paper into shapes in addition to folding.)  Kenny is asleep and dinner is made and I actually have time to blog, but for once I have  no pressing message.  This is the exact opposite of what I usually experience, which is a day spent drafting in my head while my hands run from dirty dishes to laundry but never to the computer key board.  So I sit down and, after reading my Bible, I look through my journal for the week and scroll through this week’s photos on the computer.

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We got a lot of snow this week.  I have decided that all the beautiful, shining white makes the cold, which was before unbearable, glorious!   It reminds me of Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  You can’t understand what a very big thought it is for me to picture myself as beautiful and spotless as the snow that floats past my window.  I find it much, much easier to relate to the image of the adulterous woman from Proverbs- unruly and defiant she makes her sacrifices of piety, then perfumes her bed with oil and lays wait for some poor fool in the street, “Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;  let’s enjoy ourselves with love!My husband is not at home.”  “Her house is a highway to the grave,leading down to the chambers of death.”  (Check out Proverbs 7 for a more complete description of my well-earned self image.) 

013Now I know that this description is exactly the way Satan would want me to view myself, and that to believe this self image is to deny what Christ did for me on the cross, but even accepting that my sins are completely overwritten by Christ’s righteousness, I am still well aware that I am not a nice person.  On my own I am have done, and am still capable of doing some very depraved things.  I’m so very lost and messed up, but here’s the thing that is amazing me.  Not only did God completely erase in His sight my old reflection, so that my “final grade” says “perfect,” but He is actually empowering me daily to walk righteously- to do good stuff, make good choices I never could before.  He is giving me the power to depart from evil and DO GOOD!   I could never do that before!  When I was younger it was like I was insane, being completely carried around by the whirlwind of my panicked need for self gratification, and even after I was saved the habits of sin stuck with me and I experienced very little victory.  Righteousness has been a gift, something I trust in, but not something I saw worked out in my walk, but even as I enjoy walking through our snow decorated streets, I am beginning to feel God’s power to enable me to do.  I believe He has made me white as snow- that when He looks at me I glisten and I am as glorious as the sparkling magic of a winter landscape- and I am beginning to see that He is also giving me the power to live like the new creature he has made me.  It is a pretty awesome deal He’s given me- He gives me a perfect score because He loves me, doesn’t count my failures against me and constantly teaches me to do better.  I kind of wish I could be that sort of teacher. 

010I hope it encourages someone else out there to think that your mistakes don’t have to count, and your victories could be bigger than you- that’s what God offers!  Be free! Be glorious!  Be white as snow!

MLK Day

mlkMLK had a dream, and it makes me smile to think that our family looks a little bit like what he saw in his dream.   My children and I talked today about how Martin gave his life to God and said “Here it is, use it,” and how God used up every bit of Martin’s life to bring His love to battle the hatred that gripped our nation.  I have a dream too. I have a dream that one day everyone in my family will say to God, “Here’s my life, use it as you will,” and that God will use us to bring His love into the world’s hurts just like He did with Martin.  Since family is the practice field for life Kenny and I have tried to give the kids lots of chances to practice showing God’s love this year.  I gave the kids a chance to reflect on some of theses experiences and here they are in their own words.

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My Girl Scout Troop ran a coat check and used the money to buy Christmas presents for kids with cancer.  People didn’t want to dance while wearing their coats or put it on a stool where it would slip down and they could slip on it.  So, my Girl Scout troop took care of their coats while they were at a fancy party.  I peeled off tickets for people to use to remember their coats.  The people gave us money- my girls scouts troop’s money!  We used the money to buy Christmas presents for kids who were sick in the hospital with cancer over Christmas.  I wanted to buy 185 kids Christmas presents.    I think the kids felt awesome when they got their presents.  Lots of people were hurt by racism when Martin Luther King Jr was alive and Martin Luther King Jr gave lots of speeches to get them to stop.  I showed love to hurt people just like Martin Luther King Jr!

By Elliana, age 5 ½

Elliana Learns to Spread God's Love to the Sick

Elliana Practiced Spreading God’s Love to the Sick

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I will tell you a story.  One day we drove in the car then we got a big, big table.  Then, we gave people who didn’t have money- not even one bit of money- we gave food to them.  The food came from a pot luck at church.  I gave out some soupy stuff; I guess it was bulgogi soup.  I was making the world a better place just like Martin Luther King Jr

By David, age 7

This was an especial learning experience for Cody as he faced adults struggling with mental illness.

Cody practiced spreading God’s love to the weak as an afternoon serving the homeless brought him literally face to face with some adults struggling with mental illness.

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On Thanksgiving day, we had a big party back at home and afterwards we went to Seoul Station to pass out the leftovers to homeless.  It was really cold at Seoul Station.  We passed out the food while it was in plates with foil on top of them.  We went around looking for homeless people and when we found one we gave them some.  We also gave them mints.  I was a mint giver.  Last, but not least, I went home and saw a neon volcano on a building.  It looked like it would be really fun to live there.   I was being like Martin Luther King, Jr in the way that he wanted everybody to be treated equally.  We all got a big turkey dinner so I thought maybe the homeless people would like big turkey dinners.

Dallas, age 9

 

The Kids Learn to Spread God's Love to the Hungry

The Kids Learn to Spread God’s Love to the Hungry

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This Christmas I got an orphan a Lego set.  When we hung up our stockings we said that we were going to earn money by being considerate and helpful and as we earned it we would put it in our stockings.  I got a lot of money in my stocking.  I was nice a lot.  I got $10.  Right before Christmas our family counted the money and my parents doubled it.  Then we went the store and bought toys for the orphans.  It was awesome.  I was jealous because I wanted a Lego set, too.  I encouraged the orphans when they didn’t have toys just like Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged black people when they didn’t have rights. 

By Cody, age 15

The Kids Practiced Showing God's Love to Orphans

The Kids Practiced Showing God’s Love to Orphans

Choose Joy

Elliana tours the Suwan Hwaseong Museum

Elliana tours the Suwan Hwaseong Museum

“Choose joy.”  That’s what God is telling me right now.  “Choose joy.  Don’t wait for it to happen, it is your commandment, your responsibility towards your husband, your kids, your home, all the gifts I’ve given you.  Just choose joy.

Dallas proves his is Eric Bulger's grandson by fixating on the sand table and spending the entire museum trip planning world domination.

Dallas proves he is Eric Bulger’s grandson by fixating on the sand table and spending the entire museum trip planning world domination.

Get over yourself, stop living like the old you focused on yourself.  I did a new thing by sending Jesus- God in flesh, one lamb offered once for all.  I made you a new creation with a focus on Me instead of you.  When you say like Mary ‘I am your bondservant,’ I will fill give you a thousand reasons to choose joy.  I said seek me, you said I’ll seek you, so here I am- a million reasons to choose joy.  Choose joy!

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A Korean version of the liberty bell?  It's just as old, but we didn't see any crack.

A Korean version of the liberty bell? It’s just as old, but we didn’t see any crack.

  It’s what will make your family strong and held together, it’s what will draw people to you and to Me in you.  Choose joy.

Kite flying

Kite flying in Suwan

Elliana's first time flying a kite.

Elliana’s first time flying a kite.

So many things will fall in line when you do.  Choose joy.”

Elliana's new preferred method of travel

Elliana’s new preferred method of travel

  So I guess my New Year’s resolution is pretty obvious, but exhort all those mom’s out there.  Choose joy.  It’s what God wants from us and we are so blessed when we do it.

Adventures

The first week of September we welcomed two new little girls into our house while their mother was sent overseas for a training mission. It was past Christmas before I had a moment to collect my thoughts on this adventure.  The six weeks the girls were going to be living with us morphed into nine followed by several more weeks of work-day babysitting.  In fact, Christmas week was the first week we spent without our two little guests.  Unless you have shared your home with children not you own, or been a mother to seven, or lived in Seoul, Korea, I don’t think I can explain fully what these past months have been like, but I will try to give you a little picture.

The girls bunked in Elliana’s room.  We took Elliana’s toy chest and stuck it in a hallway, and used the space to fit a toddler bed for two year old Monica.  Five year old Dyamond slept in Elliana’s bunk and Elliana moved up into Kylie’s bed since Kylie is in Texas for the school year.  In order to fit two extra wardrobes we put a small plastic dresser in Elliana’s closet.

Sleeping in was never an option with a two year old house guest.  So, rather than a battle to get myself out of bed each morning my first challenge of the day became doing my chores quietly enough that I could have the bathrooms cleaned, and the morning’s housework done before a sweet but heavy two year old took up her place on my hip.

By 6:00am everyone was up and there was a bit of a circus trying to make sure they were all dressed in clean clothes that actually belonged to them.  (At one point our seven year old wore his fifteen year old brother’s jeans for a day, but that’s another story.)  The usual morning chores of clean rooms and person hygiene became challenging with a median age of about five years old.  Eventually, though, we got to breakfast, where every chair was full plus two kids perching on stools at the corners.  During breakfast I rushed around passing out medications and pulling curls into ponytails, untill finally, we were ready for school.

Homeschooling this year has already been challenging because it is the first year we are homeschooling our 15 year old son and he has some learning challenges.  Add a two and five year old and it became a herculean effort to get through all subjects, correct all attitudes and misconceptions, and maintain a positive learning environment for the four hours of our school day.  Just try to picture it- a teenager stands by the table holding the list of his day’s assignments, “I can’t do this math- it’s too hard.  You never teach me anything!”  Fail to deal with him fast enough and he will sneak off to his room to read all morning.  At the table Dallas is reading quietly while waiting for instructions on his assignments, David is shredding his cursive page because he thinks it is too hard, and a few seats away Dyamond trying to get Elliana’s attention by scribbling over the letters she just carefully crafted for handwriting.  Monica is either on my hip trying to grab my pen, or on the floor drawing on everything she can reach.  This might be our school day any number of days.  Now, it is true that praise must be given where praise is due.  Although it felt to me like school was four straight hours of pulling a freight train, it was not due to a lack of individual effort.  All of our kids gave great effort despite the distractions and Dyamond quickly learned to be content joining us or playing with her toys on a blanket.  Even Monica was reasonably corralled between riding on my hip and playing with activity trays on the floor.  The kids did all their best; it was just a hard way to do school for two months.

At lunch time each day we went down to the playground and enjoyed the sunshine.  Then we used Monica’s naptime to try to finish up what schoolwork had been neglected.  Once she was up, we had the adventure of trying to get groceries or errands done.  This was made trickier by the fact that with our two guests we had too many people to fit in our van, plus Monica had no car seat.  We were also too many people to fit in a taxi, so we bused everywhere.  The bus schedule is not very dependable or convenient, so there were many times we had to run for the bus, or wait an hour in a bus stop before we could go home.  Again the kids did their best to follow directions and we honed it down to a science, but it is still challenging to load five kids, a stroller, and a week’s worth of groceries onto a bus while it idles at the curb, or to then carry all that from the bus stop to our apartment building once we got home.  I got to be an expert at snapping the stroller open or closed with one hand while holding a sometimes sleeping Monica with the other.

On top of the daily complications of having six kids in a foreign city I began leading a Girl Scout troop soon after the girls arrived.  I carted our supplies to meetings in Monica’s stroller and ran the meetings with her on my hip or underfoot.  Fortunately, Dyamond was old enough to join in like the other girl scouts.

Hardest of all, though, after a few weeks of being hostess extraordinaire and enjoying the extra company five year old Elliana began to feel replaced.  She became clingy, didn’t want to share her toys anymore and wore a princess dress everywhere.  When that didn’t fix the hurt she began to have huge, uncontrollable fits any time anywhere.  Imagine any of the scenes of daily life I have described then insert her lying on the floor screaming, throwing anything she can reach and saying things like “I wish I was dead!  I’m going to jump out a window!”  Or picture her just turning and running from the family as fast as she can oblivious of traffic.  No daily stress could have broken me down like the fear of watching my little girl hurt like that.

I describe all this not to say how hard things have been.  There is no doubt in my mind that all these challenges are nothing weighted next to a single one of Dyamond’s smiles as I sang her “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at bedtime, or next to the joy of watching my children love and care for Monica.  My head is filled with a hundred memories that I treasure- all the kids dancing as Kenny plays worship songs on his guitar, Monica folding her hands and bowing her head to say her first prayer, or hundreds of recipes crafted with Dyamond’s hands beside mine.  I am so glad and honored that their mother entrusted them to us, and continues to as we babysit them.   This time is somethings I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I tell you about all this because I want to tell you what I learned.  At the end of such an experience it is all too easy to look back and see the ways I failed.  I could have been more patient, kept things more structured and peaceful.  I can feel like God gave me a test and I failed.  Fortunately, God knows my thoughts, and on our last Sunday with the girls He sent a dear pastor friend to deliver me this message. “Trials are the classroom, not the test.  Consider it joy when things are hard because God is giving you a new classroom- a new course- a new chance to learn about God or to grow.  The steps toward learning from trials are simply to pray and then trust God and be a peace in the midst of them.”  For this reason most of all I am grateful that my friend trusted us with her girls and that God saw fit to put me in an apartment in the sky with a ton of kids and ton of challenges.  Someone else could have done it better, I can’t say I rocked this, but I know how to trust God better now.  I know what peace feels like in the midst of a family whirlwind.  I know that everything in this adventure was His plan, and He will use it in my family, and in Dyamond and Monica’s hearts, in a way that is going to amaze me when I can I look down on the big picture.  I’m just so glad I got have this adventure!

What a gift!

What a gift!

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Monica turned 2 while she was with us.  Cody and Kenny put together her new big girl bed.

Monica turned 2 while she was with us. Cody and Kenny put together her new big girl bed.

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Dyamond and Monica

 

Monica

Monica

Dyamond

Dyamond

Meet Dyamond and Monica, the newest addition to our traveling kid collection!  Dyamond and Monica will be staying with us for the next six weeks while their mom is out of the country.  So, starting on Thursday our house became home to a 15 year old, 8 year old, 6 year old, two 5 year olds, and a two year old!  We now have more kids than can fit in our van!  We thought long and hard before agreeing to take them in.  We both feel our focus needs to be on our eldest right now, as he navigates the perils of adolescence, but somewhere along the prayers and discussions God worked on both of our hearts and we agreed to say yes.  In the days leading up to their mom’s departure God worked again to make sure that we were prepared in ways we hadn’t even considered.  The first few days Kenny and I both felt keyed up with anxiety, wondering if this was going to be a nightmare.  Six kids in a four bedroom apartment in Korea, homeschooling five different grades, adding more chaos to our already crazy lives?  But when God gives you a job you don’t need to freak out even if you know you aren’t enough for it.  He makes it happen because its His work, and that’s how it has been with these girls.  During the school day we all stay in the dining room.  Dyamond has preschool work just a step down from Elliana’s kindergarten work, and when she’s finished she plays with her My Little Ponies.  Monica ping pongs between my lap and her toys on the floor.  We all eat our sandwiches at the park then Monica naps in her crib in Elliana’s room and Dyamond falls asleep on the couch as we read aloud.  The rest of the day Monica stays stuck on me.  I forgot how clingy a two year-old can be, and how heavy!  The first few days I couldn’t get a lick of housework done, but after a day or two she has started to relax and I can get the dishes done while she splashes in the bubbles on a stool beside me.   I was surprise by how exhausted Elliana is from having a constant playmate.  By last  night everyone was over tired.  I remembered the feeling of being at a two year olds mercy as she cried and I try to put dinner on the table, but by being calm and moving slowly, kid-pace even, I still feel peace and joy in our house even when the two year old’s nap is interrupted by a five year old’s temper tantrum.  It is amazing to me how different I am now from when my kids were babies just a few year ago.  I used to feel such a need to keep everything under control.  Now I realize the key is to keep me under control.  It’s encouraging to see that God has been working in my life.  So, I am moving one two year old sized step at a time through our day and remembering all the good examples I have seen (Jessica Peeler toting Lyla everywhere for years, the Duggars- seriously, have you watched that show- it will have you talking sweet to your kids for at least a day after watching,) and the good advice I have heard and read (Debbie Pearl, Tedd Tripp, James Dobson.)  I consider these next six weeks like a family mission trip and I would appreciate your prayers that we would be able to show God’s love, teach our kids to serve, and know Him better by taking care of these two little girls.   Its a joy to serve when you are doing in the strength He provides, and that’s what I want to it to be!