Carlson Family Update – Sept ’19

Just writing a few updates on our little family of seven, for my memory’s sake and for anyone else who might be interested! We are always surrounded by trials large and small, but I truly feel that by God’s grace we are in something of a precious ‘Golden Age’ with our houseful of children, and with opportunities every day to bear witness to the goodness of God. 

Nels continues to serve at First Southern Baptist Church here in Hutchinson in various roles. He has recently loved ministering a few times in the prison system, sharing from God’s word and through song and being encouraged by the faith and sincerity of the inmates there. Hunting season is different when you’re a daddy of five and don’t have much time for being in the woods, but he enjoyed a sweet couple of days with friends and his brother in law in Western Kansas and brought home fresh meat. 🙂 The highlight of my day every day is having coffee and devotions with Nels, usually on our back deck as weather permits! He is such a wonderful, devoted husband and father and makes our life so sweet…especially bringing me that fresh cuppa most mornings! He keeps my heart inspired and encouraged sending me new worship music to listen to and praying the kids and I through our challenging days. 

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Kaya Abigail is making my heart ache daily, growing up too beautifully and too fast! I realized recently that she will turn 10 in a few months and I was desperate to go wake her up and cuddle her! She is in 4th grade, and loves reading and singing and being outside. She is strong and beautiful…every day a little more “young lady” and less little girl. The baby is particularly smitten with her and for good reason! I refer to her often as my “right hand girl” and she truly is. Kaya is a joyful presence and encouragement in our home, a diligent worker and an imaginative, bright spirit. Kaya is FUN…so, so much fun. She has contagious energy for life and the sweetest disposition. I am so thankful that she loves the Word of God and cares tenderly for people.

If Kaya is my right hand girl, Hudson Nathanael (almost 8) is certainly my right hand boy. He is turning into such a sweet little man! He takes pleasure and shows initiative in all the little “manly” chores around the house, taking out the trash and helping mommy with random things. He is his Daddy’s mini in so many ways – except that he easily triples Nels’ daily word count! He is a chatty kiddo who knows no stranger and loves people so naturally and easily. Hudson has been devoted in prayer for several of his friends and people who he knows need to know Jesus. He shows signs of maybe possessing a spiritual gift for evangelism. He is a diligent student (2nd grade), loves reading with me each afternoon, enjoys fishing and playing ball and being with people. Tall and blue-eyed and handsome, he melts my heart regularly with kindness.

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Ezra Neal celebrated his 6th birthday and a few weeks later lost his very first tooth! It was only slightly loose, but his big brother is a savage about such things and yanked it out, to Ezra’s delight! These brothers!!! Ezra’s shock of white-blonde hair is so striking and sweet, and his strong little frame is so full of vim and vigor! He leaps and dives and barrels around, but loves to cuddle with his Mama too. He recently learned to write “Mom” and “I love you” and writes me a note with those words almost every day along with a picture of us holding hands (this might be why I feel like we’re in a special ‘Golden Age’ stage!). Ezra has a flair for the dramatic, often quoting from different movies he loves and easily storing up poetry and songs and scriptures in his sharp mind. He is in Kindergarten and spends a lot of his day playing with his little sister Aspen. They are moment-to-moment either best friends or acting like full-on opponents (they remind me of their mom and dad – ha!!!). 

Aspen Raye (3) is huge amounts of joy and delight packed in a tiny little preschooler body! I feel like exploding with happiness just watching her skip around for the sheer pleasure of it. She tells lots of stories and demands that she be allowed to do almost everything her older siblings do. Being a big sister is the pinnacle of joy for Aspen in her life right now, and she literally shakes with crazy love for the baby and longing to squeeze him. In the last year she has really exploded out of her shell and is no longer the clingy, ultra-shy and reserved Mama’s girl that she once was – she connects a lot more with family and friends at church and shows signs of maybe being our wild child…but she still loves her lengthy afternoon naps. 🙂 She is crazy in all the best ways! Her antics make Nels and I laugh almost every day (often away from her seeing us! haha!!). 

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Titus Theodor is the quintessential cream baby. His rolls and all-over pudge bring so much hilarity and joy to our home. I am so thankful for his good health and mellow personality. Sometimes I look at him and can hardly believe that he was once inside my body, that I was puking so so much…he is completely unaffected by that! What a dream boat my little “Teddy” bear darling is! He’s a perfect squeeze, an easy smile, a drooling-teething mess! I adore his blue eyes and his 98th percentile chunky, soft bod. His life has brought a lot of healing to my heart after miscarrying our baby last year. Who will he be? We wonder…and we love who he IS right now. C.S. Lewis said “in each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets…”I have seen this played out with little Titus joining our home…him bringing out new things in his siblings, and each of them showing something about him in their relationships with him. 

As a mother, I feel like a totally different person with our fifth baby, so much more relaxed and maybe in some ways able to soak it up more. I look at him and think that everyone should have “just one more” baby! How are our hearts able to just expand like this? God is so good. 

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I am daily delighted and exhausted (okay also demoralized sometimes!) by the demands of my life as wife, mother, and homeschooling teacher. God has given me a work that has so much variety that I am never bored, which suits my personality well. There is a really happy fullness with having five kids. It has been a season of stretching and growing, and I am so thankful for the grace of God as we make all the necessary adjustments. Over the last year I have faced some personal suffering through the intensity of morning sickness and fourth cranial nerve palsy (affecting my vision, balance, ability to drive, etc.) and various stresses and sometimes depression. In all that I have seen God prove himself so profoundly loving and faithful, over and over again, that in spite of the struggles I am fully grateful and also have the special joy of seeing my own growth as a person and having certain breakthroughs, spiritually and physically. For the first decade of my motherhood I think I struggled to keep an understanding of how this work mattered even though it felt so hidden, and now I have a hard-won, underlying “neutral” mode that is peaceful and just accepts it as true and I am able to operate out of that in a healthier, happier way, knowing God is glorified in our faithfulness even in the hidden places.

In the coming months we are all anticipating with great joy our family trip to Colorado, the wedding of a dear friend, my brother’s wedding, and more. Life is never without it’s challenges which we struggle with always, but I truly am thankful for this little ‘Golden Age’ and all the sweet details of our current life. We trust God that there are better things even (!) to come, as we walk with Him – ‘Further Up and Further In’!

The Spiritual Retreat Day with Kids

One practice that is making our life and homeschool more sustainable is occasionally taking a Spiritual Retreat day. It has been a richly rewarding experience for us, and something that I wish I had begun even earlier in my life and especially in my motherhood journey, but nonetheless, we celebrate it now and I urge you to consider how it may fit for your home and family. 

There are no hard and fast rules for us regarding how we “observe” these days, and I think the activities we choose will change and grow depending on the needs of our family. The general goal of the day is to have a restful, restorative day, being saturated in the Word of God and having some extra time for prayer and communion with God. When we are beginning to grow weary of our schedule or the hard things in our lives, this practice is so refreshing and renewing. 

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Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash

I truly believe that my children are finding their souls especially nourished on these days, but even if I just keep them busy, creating some space for me to spend lengthier time reading the Bible and praying, listening to sermons, journaling, reading a chapter of a book on a gospel-related topic, etc. is really a blessing to our home, family, homeschool, etc. I think God is honored by our setting aside extra time to spend with Him, and He has really blessed it!

Now that we have established this special day as a part of our home culture, my kids have started to ask about having a Spiritual Retreat during especially stressful seasons in our home, and I praise God that they are beginning to see that God is our strength in time of trouble! I love that they are beginning a habit of setting aside special time to seek God! And they know Mama is a happier person after Spiritual Retreat days and that sweet extra time with Jesus ;-)…

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Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Right now, with students in 4th grade and under plus a new baby in the home, these are a few of the things we do (interspersed as always with outside breaks to play!): 

  • Listen to “The Jesus Storybook Bible” on Audible while playing with legos, watercolors, play dough, etc. 
  • Draw a picture of someone or something you are praying for (children who can write may also with out their prayer). 
  • Watch a Bible-related show or movie (Veggie Tales or Superbook, etc.)
  • Alone time in separate rooms for Bible reading (or quietly perusing picture books!) and prayer. 
  • Older students can write out a portion of Scripture in their journals or read from a missionary biography.
  • Write a note of encouragement to mail to a friend or relative.
  • Listen to one of the Gospels on audio, or a radio program like Adventures in Odyssey.
  • Listen to beautiful worship music while resting or playing or sipping hot cocoa!
  • Future ideas: nature walk, prayer walk, worship time together, older kids write a devotional thought or summary of a shorter book of the Bible.

We may also read Scripture together, practice our memory verse and read from our church history book, but the point is not really to cross anything off our school ‘to-do’ list but to seek refreshment in the Lord and His Word.

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Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Sometimes I have scheduled Spiritual Retreat days a few months out, but more often than not we take them as needed, assuming we will do about two to three per semester. Sometimes we do a Spiritual Retreat morning if we can’t do a whole day, and that is always a gift as well.

This was born out of my own need for a break and refreshment, but it has become something my children really crave too. God is so faithful to meet with us! He restores our souls! For us it is a far better reset than just a “day off” or lazy day – which typically ends with all of us somewhat frustrated and aimless. If you have cultivated a similar practice, I would love to hear about it! Or if you plan to try in the future, tell me about how you see yourself implementing it.

Home is the sweetest place when the Spirit of the Lord is there! ❤

Many blessings on you and yours,

❤ Jordan

A Glimpse Changes Everything

If there is an “up-side” to having a melancholic side, sometimes struggling with depression, etc…I think it might be the way that it drives me to stay close to my “Why”…

I’m not always naturally okay or happy. I have to wrestle for it, I have to train my mind so hard on what in the world life is for, because the constant tug of sad feelings almost daily drags on my soul and would swallow me. The weight of the world’s troubles and the cloudiness of my own vision brings me to a despair that drives me frequently to ask God “What am I here for? Why should I wake up again today? Why should I keep fighting? Who are you?” 

Clarity of vision and purpose is my soul’s deep longing in every season. 

I’m prone to forget, to allow my vision to be clouded over. But the Lord is faithful to dust me off and point me in the right direction…over and over and over again. 

One recent Saturday night, the familiar heaviness settled over me, weighing me down in every bone, in every thought. My vision was drawn to everything in my life that was “not as it should be”…the places in my home that I want to renovate but won’t anytime soon, followed by the angry self-judgment thoughts of “that’s so materialistic, why does that even matter to you,” followed by bitterness and hopeless feelings about the future of my life, fear for my children’s lives, bitterness over hurts inflicted from those who are (or claim to be) part of the body of Christ, grief and impatience over some of my own health issues, exhaustion from the daily grind that seems to accomplish nothing, to go no where – plus general dissatisfaction and “off”-ness.

It settled on my chest like a huge boulder trying to suppress the rise and fall of my chest. Through my tears I prayed, without articulation, Lord, why? Why do your people struggle and suffer and what is life for? I know it’s not what the world would advertise to me – that it’s about getting everything I can for me and mine – but what, God? I’m so tired! I’m so, so unbearably sad. My life Is wonderful in a million ways and I still feel this helpless, hopeless kind of way.

It was pure discipline to get myself and little ones to church the next morning. I felt the heaviness still in all my limbs, the inability to draw my lips into the polite smiles that seem necessary for normal interactions. I didn’t want to have to appear in public again with my eye patch (another story entirely!), and I just felt tired from interrupted sleep (the norm with a 2-month old baby!). Yet I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to go and meet with the people of God to worship the Lord, the way he asks us to. 

As I stood in the congregation I still felt my brokenness heavily, made even more heavy as I looked down the pew at my precious children, because I felt so inadequate to lead them well. I didn’t feel the joy that I often do or that I wanted to upon entering in to worship. But in obedience I opened my mouth and raised my hands. 

And there, through the songs that I don’t even really remember, the rehearsal of the reality of the gospel and all that God has done for me, truths about his character, the reality of Christ’s blood shed for me…all sung in unity by the bride of Christ…all that is more real and more true than the heavy things on my heart began to wash my vision clean. God began to clear away the smog in my soul so that I could truly see and truly rejoice. 

Often in worship we take a humble, bowed down posture in approaching our Holy Father. This is good and right. Yet there is also a time to come boldly to the throne of grace and as a people covered by the righteousness of Christ, we are by adoption the children of God. As we sang, I felt the Spirit move me to turn my face up, as if up to look to the Lord. The Spirit allowed me to drop the shame, to drop my deep grief, and to enter into the throne room of God! In a transcendent moment, all that troubled me was reduced to it’s proper size – insignificance – by the humbling, world-shifting, incredible fact, that was this: I have a relationship with God. A relationship! Because of Christ, I can turn my face toward him. I am loved by the Holy One, the Ancient One, the Almighty One. I am welcomed, called, wanted. I am seen and known and loved. 

I was overcome by the love of God, and all my other troubles took a backseat. I wept, this time instead of tears in grief, it was for the deep comfort of being loved.

Later that afternoon, as I was still processing these things, my 6-year-old son, Ezra, asked me sweetly, “Mom, do you think I’ll ever not have to be dairy-free?” 

Now Ezra almost never complains about his allergies to nuts and dairy that he has had since infancy. He misses out on many of the treats and foods that people normally eat, and though we attempt to make it up to him through special things that work with his diet, it’s not fair. Sometimes he feels that. In that moment, my heart broke with compassion for Ezra. I don’t know if Ezra will eventually grow out of his dairy allergy, but I prayed with him that God would heal him. Having dietary restrictions is not the worst-thing-ever, but it is hard, and sometimes it’s sad, and he is my boy who I love. I cried for his sadness.

And as I felt that ache for my son, I heard the Holy Spirit remind me that God loves me as a Father. The way I feel compassion for my son, so He feels compassion for me. He brought to mind what I had been reading in Hebrews recently about the deep compassion of Jesus, who deals gently with us, who entered into the flesh and has experienced all that we do. God as a Father differs from me because he could in fact remove my grievances, while I am unable to remove Ezra’s allergy – but I know that his heart toward me is love and compassion even if he allows things in my life that are hard. 

There are many things that are mystery to me, but I trust the character of God and the compassionate heart of Jesus. I rejoice in my relationship with God that surpasses any other grief or pain I could ever experience in life – and if that doesn’t set a person free! This relationship is the core of the meaning of life and my anchor in joy. I am so thankful for how he clears away the dreariness from my soul with a restored vision of Himself. 

Beauty really will save the world. Through Christ, we catch a glimpse now of what will one day be glorious and complete.

What bliss to think – one day my joy will be complete, seeing Him face to face. This experience of the glory of God that reframed everything for me is just seeing in a mirror dimly – “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 

Herein is joy enough to sustain a life, and hope enough for the future.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,

Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;

Angels, descending, bring from above

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,

I in my Savior am happy and blest,

Watching and waiting, looking above,

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Titus Theodor: a birth story

After a March 2018 miscarriage, the Father led me kindly and gently through a season of grieving and processing and addressing fears. The following autumn we asked the Lord for another baby and He answered our prayers in the form of a little boy on the way! The pregnancy was difficult with severe, all-day morning sickness, exhaustion and other trials, so I was especially grateful to see my June estimated due date drawing nearer and nearer, and our whole family was eagerly anticipating our precious new arrival. And yet, as that date drew nearer, certain concerns were amplified too… 

With four other children to think about plus limited days off and some upcoming travel for my husband, I was having some stress and concerns about how to plan and prepare for the birth and it’s imminence and unpredictability, especially with our family living several hours away. My most recent labor had been very quick and intense and while that was a great experience, Nels and I were both concerned that this labor would possibly be even quicker and it could be challenging to have our childcare-help friends arrive while still getting to the hospital in a timely way. 

We started to think and pray openly about being induced – which was strange for me, because I have grown to treasure and affirm the value of minimally medical births and have had good experiences along those lines (see previous birth stories here!). The appeal for us was largely that my mom would be able to get off work and drive down and possibly be present at the birth, but certainly be with our four older children while we were in the hospital for a few days. In the past our due date came and went and the delivery date was 5-11 days later. My exhaustion with the pregnancy was increasing and the appeal of *not* going very far ‘overdue’ was growing with it. 

I spent some time agonizing over the pros and cons, feeling conflicted about the various options and not wanting to make the “wrong” choice…I really knew what I wanted to do and what felt right, but struggled with strong doubts and anxieties that were amplified by the intense hormones of later pregnancy. Finally with Nels and my mom both leaning toward inducing, with prayer and trust I decided that I was open to inducing if my doctor affirmed that my baby and body were in good shape for opting that way, showing effacement, dilation, etc. It almost felt like an out-of-body experience to schedule to induce a day after our due date because it was so contra- my beliefs about the nature of childbirth, but I felt led in that and convicted that I needed to have faith that God would walk with me in the process of childbirth whatever the surrounding circumstances. 

A few days before our June 12 induction, I was wrestling with fears of the pain and all that “could” go wrong, and was so grateful that the Lord gave me a phrase from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to stay my mind and heart – “with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body.” I have viewed all of my pregnancies and all of motherhood as my spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1), and it was comforting to consider that this birth would just be another chapter of trusting God and offering up my body as a living sacrifice. He is infinitely worthy! Love for Him gave me faith and courage. Scared faith and courage, but real and true all the same. 

The morning of June 12 arrived like a dream, and miraculously and in answer to prayer I was able to sleep the night before and woke up literally one minute before my pre-dawn alarm went off. We were scheduled to arrive at the hospital around 5:30am. 

The process of inducement began not too long after we arrived. They started an IV, drew some blood, began a little bit of pitocin. At my appointment the day before my doctor had stripped my membranes and checked to see that I was about 75% effaced and dilated to a 2. We met our main nurse for the day, who was like the sweetest, cheeriest little fairy godmother – predicting my wants and needs and working tirelessly to keep me comfortable and our baby safe. 

I had decided to go ahead and get an epidural since we were having a more medical labor and delivery this time, and so we got started with that process with the anesthesiologist. Truly, for me this was the absolute worst and hardest part of this labor. I had been dreading it. The last time I had an epidural was with my first baby almost ten years ago and it hadn’t been the best experience (and it had worn off before delivery so I hadn’t had the full payoff of a pain-free birth!). This time placing it was very painful as I was extremely sensitive every which way she tried to place the needle, and it seemed like the process would never be over. Once it kicked in however, the effect was lovely. I had no pain the rest of the day, and only very light sensation of contractions. Shortly after the placement the doctor came and broke my water. 

My mom joined us around 9am and we spent the morning enjoyably, chatting and catching up, with my nurse bringing me ice chips. The progress was slow, and it was strange to have to ask about my contractions, to not really be feeling them or to have the ability to quicken labor along by walking or trying different positions. I didn’t feel any urgency though, and while I had hoped to have a baby by lunch time, I wasn’t surprised when the time came and went and we were still in process. I was content and a bit sleepy, and praying that God would help our nurses and doctor to have wisdom as we went. Gradually through the day they were increasing the pitocin, and checking the effacement/dilation progress that was slow but somewhat steady. Keeping an ear on baby’s heartbeat was challenging because he was really buried in my back.

After a while mom went home to relieve our babysitter and I drifted off to sleep for a while. I started to feel contraction sensations on only my left side, and my left side remained more awake while my right leg was just heavy and not responding to my commands that it move! That sensation eased some but never totally went away. Nels and our nurse helped me into a more upright position, leaning slightly on my left side, to encourage the baby to further descend. When she checked on him she could tell that he was turned a little crooked, but finally he was descending properly, except for a bit of cervix that wasn’t fully out of the way. 

Later in the afternoon the baby’s heartbeat was dramatically escalating and then dropping. The nurse called my doctor who was unable to come and another OB joined us as the nurse told me, “it’s time to get this baby out.” I had worried off and on all day that this labor and delivery could end in a c-section, and at this juncture I wondered if we would end up there, but I didn’t have much time to fret over it because they were encouraging me to push. 

It was strange to try to find the muscles to push when I wasn’t really feeling the contractions or anything in my lower body for that matter. I had a vague sensation of pressure where his head was, and when I was instructed to push during a building contraction, I was able to find the right muscles and in just a few pushes he was out. They actually told me to slow down and take a break, but I had realized that we were so close to getting him out and I just kept pushing because I was eager to meet him and I was worried if I stopped pushing I would lose track of where exactly I was supposed to be pushing! But out he came, head and shoulders and a gush of chubby body and fluid – a perfect chubby boy, covered in creamy vernix and crying so preciously! What a joy and relief! Finally. Our hope and faith and prayers all answered in a moment of ecstasy. Already I could breathe more freely. His birth came at 3:47p.m. Titus was a daylight baby.

Just a moment later the Ob showed us with amazement that he had two true knots in his umbilical cord – something she and the other Ob’s on staff had never seen. One true knot is rare (and dangerous) enough – but two! Almost unheard of. I was filled with thankfulness that God had kept him safe when at any point of the pregnancy, labor and delivery that could have caused a major issue. The placenta was delivered also with no problem and I had a small tear that she stitched up while I was still feeling no pain. 

Titus looked so alert and interested in both Nels and I right away. He had such an expression of trying to understand and process everything that was happening. It seemed obvious that he knew our voices and that he was trying to study our faces to put them together with the voices he was already familiar with. He nursed almost right away with a strong suck and sweet healthy appetite. Maybe an hour later they weighed him and found him to be 9 pounds, 1.5 ounces! He was 20.5 inches long, just like both of his big sisters. Such long fingers and toes, perfectly round cheeks, and strong body for one so new!

Just 24 hours later we were packed up and heading home with our new perfect tiny bundle of a baby…only to find out that we had sick kids. At first it seemed like it was just the toddler with a stomach bug but it turned out they had all been exposed to hand, foot and mouth disease at VBS the week prior and were now showing the symptoms – fever, outbreak of rash, fatigue, sore throat. I started researching more about HFM to understand how to help them and how long to expect it to last and found that it was especially dangerous for pregnant women in the last two weeks of pregnancy and could result in stillbirth. While I was so sad to have to keep my sick kids away from our new baby for his first days at home, I was thankful that God had led us to induce and that our baby had already safely been born before that illness posed a threat to him.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people…” Psalm 125:2 

At times in this journey of pregnancy, labor and delivery, I could not feel the presence of the Lord, but depended upon him anyway, praying for faith and more faith. Now looking back I see that the Lord surrounded us, his people, and he was present as he promised at every step. I pray that our Titus Theodor’s life would be a light and blessing in the world, an offering back up to our faithful God. 

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Titus (pleasing; title of honor) Theodor (gift of God)…we are so, so honored by the gift of your life to us! You are absolutely adored by every member of your family and so many others. Your presence in our world brings us an overflowing joy. 

a few favorites

I love hearing more about the things making other people’s lives better, fuller, happier – so I thought I’d share a few of my own favorite things lately! Hope you enjoy! ❤

 

Learning more about the heart of worship – primarily via podcasts! The Journeywomen episode (86) with Sandra McCracken and Voddie Baucham’s “The Law of Worship” have both given me so much conviction and food for thought! I’ve been particularly musing on the purpose of worship which goes far beyond personal preferences musically.

Sprout Tray – I always love finding new ways to make our diets healthier and more nutritious, while abiding strictly by our food budget. Broccoli sprouts are one of the very healthiest things you can add to your diet, and growing them at home is pretty fun and easy…I love tossing them into a salad or sandwich. Here is an article from Wellness Mama on growing sprouts. I bought this sprouting tray from Amazon to make it easy.

Beaded Geo Fringe EarringsBeaded Hoop Fringe Earrings

Earrings from Freckled Hen – Lately I am loving all the big, beaded earrings! I tend to wear a favorite piece of jewelry non-stop until I’ve completely worn it out…that is how I am with my earrings. I am loving my Beaded Hoop Fringe Earrings in Terra Cotta and might order another color or some of their other beaded earrings – they’re all so gorgeous! At $26, they’re quite a bit more than I’d typically spend on a pair of earrings, but maybe that is changing because I’d rather buy one pair I love and wear constantly than a bunch that I feel kinda ish about.

Books – I mean, always books.

We are the Gardeners is a delightful little read with some sweet life lessons woven in, and very charming illustrations. My little foursome just planted their own garden and so this was an especially fun read for us!

Fairy Tales and Fables is one of my favorite books lately – this spring I’ve been reading a few stories almost every morning with my preschoolers (ages 3 and 5) and they are captivated and so am I! In general I am a fan of Gyo Fujikawa’s books and the couple I have collected are firmly among my favorite high quality literature children’s books. At $9.95 with lots of stories inside – I think it’s a great way to make the homeschool or book budget go far!

Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World was absolutely lovely and inspiring. In my brief review on Goodreads, I wrote: “I enjoyed this book very much…it is as much a treatise on the fullness and power and potential of feminine womanhood as it is a book on friendship…but I found both aspects of it inspiring and it has motivated me to invest more deeply in friendships (for the long or short term).” I hope to share some quotes from this one sometime!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell was gifted to me for Christmas…it was my first venture into the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell and certainly won’t be the last! Like many (most?) of the best fiction authors, she has piercing insights and descriptions of human nature that ring so true to life (sometimes uncomfortably so!). This was beautifully written…though the ending felt rather abrupt to me! American sensibilities perhaps? I would’ve enjoyed more resolution, but still found this a profoundly good read…and now I can’t wait to re-watch the BBC show version!

Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot has been probably my best read of 2019 so far, and potentially one of my favorite books, period. Honestly, the title put me off for quite some time, but I’m so glad I finally picked this up…now my commonplace book has pages and pages of quotes from it. She covers discipline in various aspects, from the body to possessions to time to feelings – it was helpful and convicting in almost every area of my life. Elisabeth Elliot has a beautiful ability to communicate with pleasing pace and style, logical flow, bringing powerful conviction and comfort undergirded by assurance of the deep love and trustworthiness of God. It was just outstanding. Here are a few quotes:

“Discipline is not my claim on Christ, but evidence of His claim on me. I do not “make” Him Lord, I acknowledge Him Lord…There is something that pretends to be Christianity which is mostly a mood. The measure of its faith is merely the measure of its feeling.

The discipline of emotions is the training of responses.”

 

Jonathan Ogden music – so beautiful, so Scriptural…I especially like his songs from the Psalms and have been listening to him on Spotify quite a bit….Here are a couple of samples:

Psalm 27

Psalm 91 acoustic 

The Hunts music – Nels and I had a blast seeing them live recently! Live music brings me to tears…it is such an inspiring, beautiful gift that God has given us! It was a small dream come true to enjoy such a joyful evening.

The Hunts are a band of seven siblings, playing indie-folksy-alternative music that has so much spirit with redemptive themes. The mix and variety of instruments is delightful! Check out Heaven Knows.

Well that’s all for now! I’d love to hear what you are loving lately…<3 Jordan

 

the hard days are your moment

If we shared a table in my local coffee shop this morning, it probably wouldn’t take long for it to come up that I am just worn out from my family having hard days. (Maybe that’s all of us?)

This week as I prayed, expressing my frustrations with more.hard.things…the Lord encouraged me with the thought that it is during the hard things our family members face that our faithfulness, love and dedication as wives and mothers is proven. 

Anyone can show up and dress up for date night. But for “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (Proverbs 31:11) to come about – well that requires some walking through dark times, together. When the hard days come and patience and hope and labor in prayer are required, it’s *here* that worth “far above jewels” (31:10) is developed and proven. The time when your spouse is discouraged and facing hard things is your moment and mine, to show up in the power of the Holy Spirit, to eat with them and pray with them and remind them of the truths of Scripture and who they are in Christ. 

The toddler is puking again. A child is in a bad pattern with sinful attitudes and actions, requiring faithful, loving instruction and discipline and loads of time and attention. Anybody can be there for them on the sunshine/playground/celebration days! But when their bodies and souls and minds need deeper care, only Mama will do. 

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(Photo by Aswin on Unsplash)

Sometimes the bills stack up and all the odds seem stacked against us. They need you to laugh at the future, Mama (31:25). 

Proverbs 24:10 says, “if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” I *know* this is true of me! The adversity overwhelms me so quickly. But I don’t operate on my own strength alone! I am weak and selfish and easily tired of the struggles. The Holy Spirit is my helper in the calling God has given me to care for my family, and in times of struggle He.shows.up. Through Christ in us, we overcome, and grow in strength for facing such days. 

If your day ahead is rough, maybe you are caring for big needs in your family, know that today is your day to be their clutch player. It may be a quiet, hidden moment, but it’s YOUR moment to show up. When does a child need a Mama more than when they are sick? Or behaving in unlovable ways? When does a husband need his wife and friend more than when he needs to know someone is praying him through a challenging meeting? Does he know that someone will listen to every thought he has at end of day? 

Facing the hard days, viewing them less as an imposition and more as an opportunity is changing my attitude and energy for them. Here is my assignment from the Lord, here is where I am most valuable to my family, and the Spirit of God is here to help!

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Ending Trimester #2: a pregnancy update

These recent days mark the last of the second trimester and the turn of a corner into the third (and we hope, into spring!). 

My husband and I joke that I really wasn’t made for this pregnancy life – I am just terrible at it! I didn’t expect an easy go since none of our prior pregnancies have been without trials, but the intensity and awfulness of the first and early second trimesters were still shocking and overwhelming.

Thankfully in mid-January a lot of the worst of the constant nausea and vomiting eased and a steadier stomach made life so much sweeter. From there it seems we have spent more days in 2019 battling sickness than feeling well! But such is life with a busy household full of littles in the winter. We took advantage of my increased stability though and really caught up on school work and even worked through the many snow days (with sledding and hot cocoa breaks!). 

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Our ultrasound in late January revealed that we have a healthy, long-legged baby BOY on the way, and it was the most joyful, wonderful news. In spite of an anterior placenta, I frequently feel movement which is so comforting. A few days after the ultrasound Nels and I agreed after much discussion and banter and prayer that we loved the name Titus Theodor for our precious gift. Our youngest little girl was at first unhappy about the baby not being a sister for her, but very shortly began a daily habit of gently stroking my tummy saying, “Hi Baby Titus!” It is so delightful to see her already stepping into the sweet and maturing role of big sister.

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Then February hit and the beginning of some new trials, from pregnancy aches and pains to many cold/flu bugs circulating in our family. I had also experienced some back pain that I mostly blamed on the inactivity and the bed/couch-bound nature of my early months of pregnancy. I worked through it, starting some gentle core-building exercise and making an effort at walking more, wearing supportive shoes, visiting a chiropractor who specializes in working with pregnant women, etc. But in spite of managing and sometimes temporarily resolving my pain, my hips specifically continued to be very painful causing a limp and even clicking sometimes when I walked (or they have simply made it nearly impossible to walk).

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Basically I’ve discovered that the hormone that loosens up all the ligaments in my body to allow room for growth and eventually for birth has been sort of in over-drive (more common with subsequent pregnancies), meaning that my body just doesn’t want to stay in alignment and my hips and tailbone can get really screwed up, I experience some intense pelvic pressure and back pain to the point that I have often resorted to trying to sleep sitting up. Thankfully that isn’t every day, and I have a new belt to wear (really makes one feel about 85 years old instead of 29! ha!) that is supposed to help keep things aligned better for longer. But it is a new challenge to manage daily and one that makes me long for delivery day even more!

The challenges have inspired my husband and I to consider this winter one of learning to be “patient in affliction.” Though these various illnesses and pains have caused many teary days in our home, I am so grateful for the Lord’s gracious gift of this child. He has brought encouragement to our hearts after the loss of our fifth baby last March. Every kick I feel is a reminder to me that in spite of the hardships our sweet one is growing strong and his life is being sustained by the Lord, as is mine. 

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Little Theo is due around June 11. Now I have a bit over 3 months to wash and organize our baby clothes, find a new carseat and baby carrier, stock up on newborn necessities, arrange some kind of bedroom/closet storage space and replace some of our baby items that we wore out with our first four babes. It is the sweetest, most exciting and hopeful to-do list I could imagine! 

 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

I’ve been reviewing my previous birth stories to try to gear up a bit for our upcoming one! Here is Aspen’s story if you’re curious and love birth stories as I do. 🙂