Embracing Simplicity

The view from our friends’ home!

Last week I did something I never thought I’d do – I drove to Washington with my 4 kids, 34 weeks pregnant, without Mark. I was missing a good friend, and the time away sounded like exactly what I needed before this baby makes his appearance.

The trip was fantastic – the kids were content during the drive and I managed to stay awake with the help of my friend Red Bull. 😉

We spent the majority of our week at our friends’ home in the country. For 5 days, we had no internet, no cell phone, and no TV. But what we did have was priceless: the kids enjoyed being with friends they’ve known all their lives – with 5 acres to explore and play, the river to splash in, mud to muck around in, tepee-building, dog-chasing, and snake-holding. Inside, I was in heaven with the wood-burning fireplace in constant crackle, good food always cooking, yarn to crochet, books to read, and of course, wonderful conversations with my dear friend.

When we arrived home Sunday evening, I was unpacking the car, trying to hold my emotions in check. When I got to a pile of blankets that smelled strongly of wood smoke, I broke. I missed my friend, and I missed the peaceful, serene setting of their home. I missed the simplicity of our lives for that short week. My kids did too. They asked multiple times about moving there, wondering what it would take.

I spent yesterday unpacking our things and re-aclimating myself to our home. I spent a lot of time thinking about what made our friends’ home so special (other than the presence of our friends, of course!). The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the simplicity of their lives. There weren’t buckets of toys, but the toys they had encouraged creative play. No matter how hard I try, I feel like our home us taken over by toys! The kids were outside a lot, and dirt was embraced. That’s something I need to work on! Food was simple, but healthy and full of flavor! Mmm… I will dream about that steamed artichoke with roasted garlic goat cheese for weeks to come, I’m sure! And the flow of their days allowed so much freedom to be together and truly enjoy each other.

So, my goal these next few weeks is to harness my nesting urge that’s kicking in, and use it to simplify our lives a bit. How can I declutter our things and our time? How can I rearrange our home life a bit to make my priorities the priority again?

What about you? Any plans for simplifying your life a bit this spring? What are you thinking of removing or rearranging?

Blessings!
~ Judy

 

Here are a few more pics from the trip!

Playing at the river!
Cozy reading in front of the fire
Getting muddy in the pond

The Closing of a Chapter

This week marks the closing of a chapter of my life. My husband is getting a vasectomy.

For the past 8 years, my life has been consumed by motherhood. And this has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever known! Through my children, I have learned so much about myself and grown in character more than I ever would have imagined possible.

For the past couple of years, the size of our family has been on my mind almost constantly. When we first got married, Mark wanted 2-3 kids and I wanted 4-6. A few years into our married life, I was introduced to the “quiverful” teaching- basically the idea that since children are a blessing from God, we should desire many and not do anything to prevent them from being given to us. I was enamored by the idea of a large family and started imagining myself as a mom of 8+ kids. Mark, on the other hand, agreed that children were a blessing, but couldn’t find Biblical support to mandate or even push never limiting your family size. For several years, this wasn’t an issue, because we were both happy with the growth of our family. After having our second daughter (giving us 2 boys and 2 girls), Mark decided he wanted to be finished having kids. I, on the other hand, wanted more. I worked to come to grips with the fact that I was going to be a mom of 4, all while hoping that Mark would “see the light.”

Last year, we received quite a shock to find out that despite our “best efforts,” we were expecting baby #5. (Read all about it here and here) It was a major adjustment all over again. And this time, we started really talking seriously about doing something permanent to close this chapter in our lives. I studied and decided that I could not agree with the idea that Scripture teaches against limiting your family size. So we agreed that Mark would have a vasectomy done. And I was mostly okay with that.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I had an emotional breakdown about the whole thing. I realized that I still had a deep desire for more children, and didn’t want that option taken away from me. I spent an evening sobbing, then the next day sat down with Mark and told him how I felt. I felt like I was completely torn in two: part of me wanted to respect my husband’s desires to move on in life, and the other part couldn’t bear the idea of never having more children. He listened and said that he would be happy to postpone things until we were on the same page.

For the next several days, I took a lot of time to sort through my thoughts and emotions, and to pray for direction and peace. I searched out wisdom online, and was disheartened to find that it was nearly impossible!  I found plenty of horror stories, reversal stories, and women who were excited that their husbands were having it done, but what I was looking for was like finding a needle in a haystack!  I finally found one story that spoke to my soul.  It was entitled, “Loving Him Means Letting Go” (and apparently it has since been removed from the host website it was on, or I would link to it).   The dear wife wrote about her struggles with giving this area to her husband, and how much peace the Lord gave her about doing so.  (One of the biggest reasons I’m sharing this here is that hopefully, someday, my story will touch someone else as hers has touched me.)  Anyway, I was relieved and honored that Mark was willing to postpone the vasectomy despite his feelings, but over several days I became convicted that I was only listening to my own emotions and desires and not giving full consideration to Mark’s.

So one day I asked him point blank, “Is there any chance that someday you’re going to want more kids?” His answer was pretty certain. “No, I’m very happy with the children I have and am ready to move on in life, out of this stage.” His concerns were valid: having young children is exhausting, and we want to maintain quality relationships with our children, not simply get by. He wanted to have enough time to invest in our kids’ lives and not be so overwhelmed that we have nothing left to give at the end of the day.

At that moment, I had peace. Peace that it was okay to be done. Peace that I was going to be happy and fulfilled with the family I have. Peace that honoring my husband was going to strengthen our relationship and ultimately our whole family. So I told him to move forward with his appointment, that I was okay with it.

I’m currently in my 35th week of pregnancy, and I’m trying to savor every moment of it. Every little baby movement is a gift, and most days I sit and spend a few minutes in thankfulness for this last chance to experience pregnancy and birth again. Each of my children are such a gift to me, and I’m excited about moving into this next phase of life – childrearing instead of childbearing. And I know that with my wonderful husband at my side, this next chapter will be just as life-changing and priceless as the last one!

~ Judy

Wrapping up 2012

What a year 2012 has been! We began the year in our home in Washington, enjoying the snowy winter (including a 10-inch snowfall and power loss!). In March, life changed dramatically when Mark lost his job and we felt God tell us it was time to move to Idaho. What a huge and fast change for our family! In 3 weeks time we had completely relocated. Our summer was a fun time of bike riding, pool play, shaved ice, and exploring our new town. Things were starting to settle down a bit, and then came our crazy, busy fall, complete with the discovery that were would be having a fifth child! Now we are wrapping up the end of the year, and getting ready to begin hosting a Messianic home fellowship in less than a week. What a wild year our family has had!

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These questions were posted by one of my mentors, Sally Clarkson, this morning on her blog, http://itakejoy.com. I thought they were a good, concise list of things to meditate on as we wrap up this year and move into the next.

The first question addresses stress. What source of stress in my life can I eliminate as I go into the next year? I think for me, my biggest source of stress is sleep deprivation. I am always tired. And for the most part, I bring it on myself by staying up to late. Ugh. This is something Mark and I have been struggling with for a long time, and I feel like I will never know my full potential until I master my sleep habits. It’s a major goal for this year!

The second one is hard to answer. I don’t feel like I do much to please others. I have one volunteer position that I’ve had for a long time now, and I’ve thought about taking it off my plate, as the commitment causes some stress to myself and the kids. But honestly, it’s one of the only things that I do outside of my family and friends, so I feel like it’s important to maintain a healthy perspective. I have to figure a few things out in that arena.

The next question is a good one to think about. My biggest goal for my children this year is to help them learn to resolve conflicts between each other without my constant mediating. My older two are just starting to understand this concept, but they often default to coming to me first. I’m looking forward to helping them work on their communication skills and empathy with each other.

The word that comes to mind with question four is Grace. I want my children to understand that while we try to do what is right, we serve a God who freely gives grace to His children. And I know I definitely need to work on giving more grace to my kids as well!

And now, I must get back to my little crew. 🙂 Happy New Year to you and yours, and may your 2013 be blessed!

~Judy

Our Pregnancy Update

Last time I shared here about my pregnancy, I talked about how much of a roller-coaster ride I have been on over the past couple of months. Well, I’m happy to report today that things are finally settling down some! 

My strange bleeding issues were identified by a great OB as a non-threatening quirk of my placenta, and have since completely resolved. I can’t tell you what a relief that was!  My energy level is slowly rising back up, and the nausea is pretty much gone. (Yay, I can make dinner again!)

For those of you who know me on Facebook, you already know that I had a bit of a “falling out” with my midwife. And I couldn’t be more at peace about that!  In fact, I believe God is leading us toward unassisted birth, and we are prayerfully moving in that direction. This is something we take very seriously and are doing with eyes wide open. I’m ordering a fetoscope (a special stethoscope for hearing the unborn baby’s heartbeat) and will be watching my weight, fundal height, and blood pressure. Don’t worry, if things don’t seem right, I’ll take myself in to an OB! 🙂

And on an exciting note, we had an ultrasound last Saturday – we’re having another boy!!! I’m very excited (as is Mark) – we both thought another boy would be the perfect addition to our family, and apparently that is what God had in mind too!

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Anyway, on that happy note, I’m going to end this little update and wish you and yours a happy holiday season! May your special days be blessed and full of love!

Learning the Blessing of Mourning

Wow, where do I start?  This month has been one of the most roller-coaster months I have ever experienced.  In the course of one month, we have started school for the year, celebrated family birthdays(including my 30th!), traveled to Seattle twice, made some major life decisions (more on this later), received some surprising family news (more on this later, too), started a college course, celebrated the arrival of my newest nephew (welcome, baby Owen!), and lastly, received the shattering news of my uncle’s murder.

For those of you who don’t know me on Facebook, here’s the quick recap: on Thursday evening (the 27th), there was a shooting in Minneapolis.  A disgruntled ex-employee went on a vengeful shooting spree at his former office, killing 4 people plus himself.  My uncle was an innocent bystander – the UPS delivery guy dropping off a package at the wrong time.

My Uncle Keith

My uncle, Keith Basinski, was an amazing person.  Everyone loved him.  He radiated happiness and joy.  He was genuine and giving.  I remember his selfless hospitality – we always stayed at his house when we visited Minneapolis and he was always willing to do whatever to help us feel comfortable and welcome.  Mark said that he holds a special place in his heart as well – so full of joy and kindness.  Learning of his death was quite a blow. 

Death is hard to process by itself, but I’ve learned this week that murder is a different story altogether.  It’s so dark, so evil. 

I’ve been working through my grief these last few days.  My uncle was a believer, so I have the comfort of knowing his destiny and that he is with the Father right now.  But it is still hard to have someone snatched from life so quickly, so cruelly.

Mark has been reading a book about the Beatitudes, and he suggested the next chapter, which was on mourning.  So I read it this morning in my quiet time, and it really ministered to me, so I wanted to pass along some of the most poignant passages here.

“Mourning means they have given up their self-delusions about control, power and protection.  They know that life is fragile, and that they are not in charge.”

“Only when life jolts us do we see the real picture of our existence, that we depend on God’s graciousness for every breath.  Mourning brings about the acute awareness of powerlessness – an essential ingredient in spiritual growth.”

“Yeshua looked out on the brokenhearted in the crowd and saw that some were ready, posed to accept the incredible announcement about to be theirs.  they were ready because they were the blessed ones.  God could reach them, now, in the moment of their raw openness.”

“Yeshua knows that this comfort has two critical elements.  First, it is comfort found only by those who are at this moment open because of their agony.  And secondly, it is a promise that reaches beyond the immediate.”

“It is the guarantee that no matter what crisis comes upon us, God is here.  God is in control.  Our lives are not adrift on a stormy sea of emotional trauma.  The Holy Spirit will stand as our Advocate when we fall.  He will intercede.  All of His unfathomable power, care and love will be ours because God hears our cry.”

“So grief comes upon us, not as a judgment or a punishment but as the single most clarifying moment of life – the moment that I see that my life is not my own, that it is not even mine to keep.  At that moment, when I know my limits most intimately, I am ready to hear God’s message – comfort is upon me.”

My prayer in all this is that through grief, many people who were blessed by my Uncle Keith’s life will be even more blessed through his death.  May they find the One who was the source of my uncle’s joy, the foundation of his giving and generous life.

“Oh, so happy are those who at this moment are broken over life’s finality because the day is upon them when God’s gracious love is at hand and they have the promise that death is defeated.”


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

A few links honoring my uncle, Keith Basinski:

http://www.kare11.com/news/article/992930/396/UPS-driver-killed-in-shooting-remembered-as-a-gentle-spirit

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/video?clipId=7779705&autostart=true

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_21654524/minneapolis-shooting-ups-driver-was-devout-christian-packers

http://fridley.patch.com/articles/amazing-gentle-minneapolis-shooting-victim-keith-basinski-of-spring-lake-park-remembered

* All quotes except for Scripture are taken from “The Lucky Life – The Backwards Beatitudes,” by Skip Moen, D.Phil.

Today We Are Celebrating!

Today in our home we are celebrating something special – the birth of the man who God has given to us as a husband and daddy! 

Mark is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and I feel so blessed to be his wife.  He has integrity, passion, and loyalty.  He is an incredible daddy, who adores his children and really enjoys developing deep relationships with each one of them.  He is a devoted husband, who really tries hard to understand and honor me.  He takes care of my needs, placing them above his own.

I love him dearly and passionately, and I just wanted everyone to know that. 

~ Judy

Uncomplicating My Life a Bit

After a wonderful date with my beloved hubby last night, I took some time to re-assess my priorities.  I tend to over-complicate my life with massive to-do lists, projects that I take on without considering the ramifications, and unrealistic expectations for myself and others around me.

So I decided to figure out what my top priorities are right now, and put the rest in a “closet” for the time being.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Top Priorities:

  1.  Foster an environment for our family that is God-centered, peaceful, and joyful.

I’m going to do this by praying with my children daily, focusing on maintaining a right attitude in myself throughout the day, and modelling godliness for my children.

  2.  Develop and implement a routine for myself and our children, and support Mark in his own routine.

To do this, I’m going to create a routine chart for my kids (and stick by it!).  Major focuses will be our start-of-the-day routines, focusing on school when we’re doing it, and getting to bed on time.

  3.  Develop local relationships!

This might be challenging (especially for my introverted self), but we’re going to do our best to reach out and meet people.  I will hopefully be able to get our Mom Heart group started up soon (if you live locally, please contact me if your interested!), and we will be starting a weekly HaYesod group to study the foundations of the Christian faith on September 8th (again, if you’re interested, let me know!).  I’m also going to connect with a local homeschooling group as well as La Leche League.

  4.  Finish my associate’s degree

I will be taking CLEP tests in US History, Sociology, and Human Growth/Development over the next couple of months, as well as probably enrolling for a science course at BSU.  I’m planning to graduate in May 2013.

I think the hardest thing about all of this is all of the things that I have to put away in the “closet” for the time being.  I have so many goals that I am working towards that I need to set aside in order to make this happen.  It’s so hard to admit to myself that I can’t do everything, but I know that it is for the best.  Hopefully in a few months, I will be able to dig a few of those long-term goals out of the closet again and tell you about them!

~ Judy

Free To Be Me

I was chatting with my friend last week about how things have changed for me since moving here. Prior to our move, I had lived in Washington for 9 1/2 years. It is where I feel I really became an adult, where I got married, and where I became a mother. I developed a lot of my self-identity in those things, as well as things that went along with them, such as being a home-birther (and childbirth educator), lactation advocate and peer educator, and an attachment parent.

And while these things are still really important to me, I also feel like there’s a part of me that has woken up since being here. It’s the part of me that is just Judy. There’s such freedom in not knowing anyone and getting to start over. I get to decide who I want to be without any outside influence. I don’t really have any social life, which frees me up to focus on my relationships with HaShem and my family.

And that is what I’ve been doing. Reinventing myself. Being who I want to be. Figuring out what is important to me and making those things my focus. Praying more about everything. Cherishing the life that I have been given – it is a gift!

~ Judy

An Early Bird Stuck in a Night Owl’s Body

I’m convinced – I am an early bird who is stuck in a night owl’s body! If left to itself, my body will naturally wake up around 8-9am and go to bed between 12-1am. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.

For years, I have wished that I could wake up earlier without extreme effort. In high school, I had to put my alarm clock on the other side if the room AND cover the snooze button with cotton to keep myself from turning it off in my mostly-asleep state and going back to bed. In college, I got the worst grades in my earliest classes, often because I just couldn’t get myself there. And now, as a mom, it means I wake up with my kids and get my alone time late at night.

This might work out fine for me except for one *small* detail – those rare days when I wake up early are amazing! I love them. I love waking before my family and spending time alone in prayer and thought in a quiet house. Being the introvert that I am, I get my energy from those alone times, and starting my day that way gives me such a better perspective and attitude about the rest of the day.

Back when I was pregnant with Avigail, for the first time as a parent, I was able to get into a routine that enabled me to wake up early. For a couple of blissful months, I woke up around 7am, got ready, and went downstairs to read, pray, and think before the kids woke up for the day. The trick for me at that time was buying a new coffeemaker that I could set the night before. Knowing that I would get my fix, hot and fresh, as soon as I got downstairs was enough to coax me out of bed most mornings. Well, that and the fact that if I waited too long it would be burnt! It was still hard, but so worth it. And with each day my resolve grew stronger.

But eventually Avigail was born, and my time was no longer my own. Sleeping through the night became a faint memory, and I returned to my former pattern of late nights and late mornings. Even on the mornings when my babe didn’t allow me to sleep in, I was still living in a constant state of new mom sleep deprivation.

So, that brings me to today. It’s been over 9 months since our little girl entered our lives, and while sleeping through the night is still an elusive escape artist who I’m pretty sure won’t be returning anytime soon, I’m ready to put my game face back on! Life is flying by at a dizzying speed, and I desperately want to be at a place in myself where I be present in and can cherish every moment. And for me, I know that will include bringing out the early bird in me!

And so it is with great trepidation that I share my morning routine!

– Bedtime (with a clean house, preferably): 10:30-11:00pm | First of all, an early morning has to start with an early bedtime. This has been a major struggle for me, but Mark and I are on the same page, so we’re trying to encourage each other in that area.

– Wake up, shower, get dressed: 7:00am | My ultimate goal is 6:30 so that I have a half-hour to work out, but for now this is where I am.

– Head downstairs for tea, Bible reading, and prayer time: 7:30am | I recently gave up coffee in favor of the less-intense effects of tea. I quit cold-turkey and felt like a rock star. 😀

– Kids & Breakfast: 8:00am | This is when the kids typically start making their way downstairs. I’m working on making a habit of spending a few minutes focused on each child as they wake up (inspired by a friend of mine). Then I start breakfast and do dishes, and on goes our morning!

My morning isn’t complete without these two things.  Well, and the iPod.  🙂

Is there anyone else out there trying to become more self-disciplined about their personal time?  Anyone other early birds stuck in night owl bodies?  Leave a comment and let’s encourage each other!

~ Judy

Why a Blog?

In my introductory post, I said that I thought my friend was crazy for suggesting that I blog. So, why am I doing it? That’s a very good question!

I suppose there are 2 reasons that I decided to take the plunge. In part, this blog is a way to share my life (and our family’s life) with my friends and family who don’t live nearby us. But another part – and I believe the more compelling motive – is that lately I have been doing a lot of thinking and growing, and I want an outlet to share my thoughts, receive some feedback, and hopefully encourage and challenge some other people along the way.

This blog will be a combination of my thoughts about different aspects of life: God, faith, family, and personal growth, as well as a place to share a bit about our family’s adventures.

Welcome!